(April 25) – Rep. Dylan Roberts won House support today for two bills to make health insurance more affordable across Colorado.

HB18-1205 is 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, who earn too much to qualify for federal stipends and too little to afford their premiums.

“Simply because of the zip code they live in, too many Coloradans on the Western Slope and Eastern Plains face significantly higher health insurance premiums than Coloradans in the more urban parts of the state,” said Rep. Roberts, D-Eagle. “That means that families are having to choose between child care, mortgage or rent payments, and health insurance every month. That is not fair and this bill provides some much-needed equity.”

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.

Eligibility would be limited to those who do not qualify for any other health insurance including VA, Medicaid, Medicare or group policies. Assistance would only go toward purchase of the lowest-price “bronze” plan on the state healthcare exchange.

Also passing the House today was HB18-1384, sponsored by Reps. Roberts and Marc Catlin, R-Montrose. It requires the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Division of Insurance to devise three different health insurance plan options using the state’s existing health care infrastructure, including an option to allow Coloradans to purchase a plan through Medicaid.

Coloradans across the state, and especially in rural Colorado, are facing rate increases on the individual health insurance market that can run upwards of 30 percent. And less than 50 percent of Coloradans have access to insurance through their employer, highlighting the importance of finding ways to make individual plans more affordable and accessible.

“Competition in our health insurance market is sorely needed,” Rep. Roberts said. “This bill will give the legislature the information it needs to figure out how to bring about that competition. The best way to do that may be a program like a Medicaid buy-in or maybe it is a regionally based co-op. This study will allow us to make well-informed and strategic decisions to address this urgent problem. I am pleased with the bipartisan support.”

HB18-1205 passed the House on a 37-27 vote, and the vote for HB18-1384 was 41-23. Both bills are headed over to the state Senate.

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