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Legislation in Review: A Documentary on Colorado’s 2016 Health Policy Ecosystem

In a legislature divided, under the stormy skies of presidential politics, it’s no wonder that barely half of introduced bills survived this year. While there were certainly successes, health proposals didn’t fare any better against an array of predators.

Like salmon swimming upstream, bills face a long and difficult journey. They may lose steam and falter, floating off without a fight, or be swept away despite their best efforts by the icy currents of partisan politics. Just when sponsors think their bills have made it, bills may leap up and over a waterfall – only to land in the waiting jaws of a committee. State, Veterans and Military Affairs is the Kodiak bear of this bunch, with a seemingly bottomless appetite.

Media headlines characterized the 2016 legislation session as one of “little progress” and “missed opportunities,” and calls are increasing for a special session to address unresolved issues. Given this response, it’s easy to think that the legislature wasn’t really worth watching. 

But when you take a step back, there are always bills worth noting, debates worth remembering and lessons worth applying in future years.

To make sense of the whole thing, we bring you the 2016 edition of Legislation in Review. This report recaps the session from a health policy perspective. In it, we explain the year’s top trends and the bills that exemplified them, in addition to examining the political landscape, state budget pressures and issues at stake in November’s elections.

We delve into four themes that emerged for health legislation:

 

  • Statement Bills Send a Message: Partisan “message bills,” designed to make a point, were plentiful during a session that saw most controversial legislation fail.
  • Regulation Draws Reinforcement: More rules for health care professionals and industries were popular among Republicans and Democrats.
  • Transparency Gets Murky: Legislators from both parties wanted more transparency in health care, but disagreed on how to accomplish it.
  • Health Costs Move to the Forefront: Rising enrollment and costs often made Medicaid the “elephant in the room.”

 

If you’re curious about the bills we selected to feature in our “Grab Bag” section, want to know more about where failed health proposals died, or need guidance on the top state races to watch this fall, we’ve got you covered there too.

And if you’re wondering what happened with health bills that didn’t make it into our report, you can check out CHI’s full 2016 Bill Tracking List. It summarizes each bill we watched this year along with its status.

In all, we followed 85 bills. We’ll post an updated version of the list after the governor finalizes his decisions on unsigned legislation, which must happen by June 10.

Thanks for tuning in to CHI’s annual legislative documentary. We’ll continue to analyze what we saw this year and what it might mean for the year ahead. We’ll also keep working on our “nature film narrator” voices. (If Snoop Dogg can do it, so can we.) We’re already taking bets on the boldest bears and biggest fish for 2017.