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Recapping the Successes and Storm Clouds of the 2018 Legislative Session

The 2018 legislative session was surprisingly productive given split-party control, a looming election and various controversies about sexual harassment. We analyze what happened in CHI’s annual wrap-up report, Legislation in Review, published today.

Legislators had no shortage of ideas. As a group, they introduced 721 bills — the most in nearly 15 years. And despite the politics, they voted in bipartisan fashion to pass 432 of them for a success rate of 60 percent.

Health bills did not find as much common ground. Despite notable successes on substance use and mental health issues, legislators failed to find much agreement on subjects such as health care transparency and insurance costs. Just under half (49 percent) of bills on CHI’s tracking list, which spanned topics from environmental health to provider licensing to pharmaceuticals, made it to the governor’s desk.

You can view the list, including the current status of each bill, here. Governor Hickenlooper has until June 8 to sign or veto anything he hasn’t taken action on yet.

This year’s title of Legislative Grim Reaper is no surprise to those who follow Colorado politics. The State, Veterans and Military Affairs committees continued to be the biggest obstacle — mostly for House proposals. The Senate committee singlehandedly dispatched almost 100 bills, or one-third of all bills that failed at the Capitol this year.

We identified five health policy themes from the past five months under the Golden Dome:

1. Opioid Bills Steal a Win

Five of the six bills from a 2017 interim committee charged with addressing the substance use epidemic made it to the governor’s desk. Despite the failure of a bill to allow a supervised drug injection site, this was the biggest health policy success story of the session.

2. Transparency Push Trips Up

Legislators finally found some consensus regarding greater price transparency at freestanding emergency departments, but every other major pro-transparency bill related to health — from drug pricing to hospital financial reporting — failed this session.

3. Still Struggling with Cost Control

While we once again saw attempts to rein in insurance cost growth, every notable effort failed. But bills focused on reinsurance, premium subsidies and geographic rating regions kept the conversation front and center and may position the General Assembly to enact changes in the near future.

4. Modest Progress on Mental Health

Legislators considered many bills focused on mental health and worked together to take some promising steps. But politics and philosophical disagreements derailed several suicide prevention measures.

5. Heated Battles Over Environmental Health

Climate change and oil and gas issues are increasingly in the spotlight at the Capitol. With the exception of a measure updating the Governor’s Energy Office, no bills tackling this topic passed in 2018, but the issue is sure to be back next year — and hotter than ever.

All eyes turn now to the June primaries and November elections, which could bring major changes to the Capitol and Governor’s Mansion. Can Democrats retain the state’s highest office? Will they flip control of the state Senate? Or will Colorado continue to experience split party control?

Look for our election preview this summer and fall. In the meantime, kick back and recap the recently completed session with Legislation in Review.


Do you have feedback on CHI’s legislative work? Any questions not answered in today’s report? Feel free to reach out to our legislative team, Allie Morgan (morgana@coloradohealthinstitute.org) and Joe Hanel (hanelj@coloradohealthinstitute.org).