(March 8) – Two bills by Rep. Dylan Roberts to boost rural Colorado advanced in the House today.

This evening, the House Health, Insurance & Environment Committee advanced HB18-1205, Rep. Roberts’ bill to reduce the disparity in health care costs between rural Coloradans and those on the Front Range. Rural Coloradans pay significantly higher health insurance premiums and the burden is heaviest on rural Coloradans whose incomes fall between 400 percent and 500 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

“They earn too much to qualify for federal stipends and too little to afford their premiums,” Rep. Roberts said.

The bill would provide temporary financial assistance to individuals and their families between 400 percent and 500 percent of federal poverty level who spend more than 20 percent of their household income on health insurance premiums and live in one of 48 counties in the western half, southern tier or eastern third of the state.

Recipients would not be eligible for any other health insurance including VA, Medicaid, Medicare or group policies, and assistance would only go toward purchase of the lowest-price “bronze” plan on the state healthcare exchange.

The HIE Committee’s 7-6 vote sent HB18-1205 to the Appropriations Committee.

This morning, the full House gave preliminary approval to SB18-005, sponsored by Rep. Roberts and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, which will help rural communities across Colorado that experience significant job loss, such as when a plant closes or a mine is mothballed. Affected communities will be able to turn to the state Department of Local Affairs as coordinator of state-level assistance efforts, a single point of contact for nonmonetary resources from other state divisions and departments.

“Rural communities may lack the administrative bandwidth to write grants and apply for support in times of economic hardship,” Rep. Roberts said. “This bill makes DOLA a one-stop shop for the various state programs that can help a rural community get back up after an economic knockdown.”

After a recorded vote, SB18-005 will be headed to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk.

“High health care costs affect most rural Coloradans and economic setbacks have a disproportionate impact on smaller communities,” said Rep. Roberts, D-Eagle. “These two bills will mean a lot for the rural parts of our state. I went to Denver to fight for rural Coloradans, and I take that responsibility very seriously.”

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