Gov also signs bills to create the Colorado Health Care Reserve Corps, protect insurance consumers and better connect patients with financial assistance
DENVER, CO — Governor Jared Polis today signed five bills into law that will increase access to health care and protect consumers.
“Colorado has led the way nationally to lower the cost of insulin and help ensure every person in our state can access the life-saving medication they need,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon. “The bill builds on the progress we’ve made to guarantee that regardless of insurance status, Coloradans with diabetes will be able to get insulin at an affordable price when they need it.”
HB21-1307, sponsored by Representative Dylan Roberts, increases access to insulin by clarifying that the current $100 cap on a person’s monthly insulin supply applies regardless of the number of prescriptions a person may have. Furthermore it allows eligible consumers to access one emergency prescription insulin supply for no more than $35 per 12-month period. Finally, it creates the Insulin Affordability Program in the Division of Insurance to help eligible individuals obtain prescription insulin for $50 a month for 12 months. The findings of an investigation conducted by the Colorado Attorney General’s office released in November, 2020, found that over 40% of Coloradans using insulin rationed their medicine due to cost and that over 37% use expired insulin to stretch their supplies due to high costs.
“Health care isn’t just physical health–it has to include mental health, too,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City. “Now, every insurance plan in Colorado will have to cover an annual mental health wellness exam, which will help identify and treat behavioral health conditions before someone experiences a crisis. We know that early detection of behavioral health conditions leads to better health outcomes and helps individuals access the treatment and care they need.”
“With Governor Polis’s signature today, Coloradans are going to be able to get an annual mental health wellness exam that will be covered by their insurance, just like their annual physical exam,” said Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada. “This will lead to better health outcomes, help Coloradans access the behavioral health care they need and should set an example for other states to provide mental health exams for their residents. ”
HB21-1068, sponsored by Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Brianna Titone, requires health insurance plans in Colorado to cover an annual mental health wellness exam of up to 60 minutes that is performed by a qualified mental health care provider. Under the bill, coverage for the annual exam must be comparable to coverage for an annual physical exam, and insurance plans may not require deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance for the annual mental health wellness exams. Annual wellness exams allow individuals to be offered services and supports that address their needs before an issue progresses or becomes a crisis. Mental health conditions occur at all stages in life, and by integrating mental health into primary care, more Coloradans will have access to the care they need.
“During the worst days of the pandemic, it was clear Colorado health facilities faced challenges finding enough nurses and staff as the virus strained health professionals in hospitals while other providers struggled to find ways to help,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica, an ER Nurse. “By creating the Colorado Health Care Service Reserve Corps, we’ll be better prepared when the next disaster hits with providers in the corps cross trained in multiple areas and ready to serve when called upon.”
HB21-1005, sponsored by Representatives Kyle Mullica and Yadira Caraveo, creates a state-level task force made up of experts in licensing, medical professionals, hospital administrators, and cross training facilitators to lay out plans to create the Colorado Health Care Service Reserve Corps. The task force will determine the membership of the Reserve Corps, create training practices and recommend benefits that could attract members to the corps. The task force may also make recommendations for legislation necessary to successfully establish the Reserve Corps. Rising temperatures, harmful air quality, and more intense wildfires are making health emergencies that require a medical response more common. Thousands of nurses are retiring each year, and there is projected to be a national physician shortage of over 120,000 doctors by 2032 while Colorado has nearly 120 designated health professional shortage areas.
“The price of health care is too high, leading many Coloradans to forgo treatment or go into debt,” said Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora. “This session, we passed legislation to increase access and reduce the cost of health care, and I’m proud the governor signed my bill today that increases patient protections around billing and helps low-income Coloradans avoid crippling medical debt. The law also helps hospitals connect patients to financial assistance and sets standards for discounted care.”
HB21-1198, sponsored by Representative Iman Jodeh, makes several improvements to Colorado’s Hospital Financial Assistance Law to ensure hospitals screen patients for potential financial assistance through a variety of programs, make it more difficult for a patient to be sent to collection actions, and sets an enforceable standard for discounted care. The bill will crack down on predatory billing practices, help low-income Coloradans avoid crippling medical debt, and ensure all patients have access to information about their rights when accessing emergency care.
“SB21-169 will protect consumers and ensure that no one faces discrimination when purchasing an insurance product in Colorado,” said Rep. Naquetta Ricks, D-Aurora. “It’s unacceptable to charge someone more because of factors that don’t correlate with risk, such as someone’s credit, who they are, where they live or who they love, and now in Colorado, that practice is finally behind us.”
SB21-169, sponsored by Representative Naquetta Ricks and Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, prohibits considering someone’s race, color, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or transgender status in any insurance practice if it results in unfair discrimination of a protected class, as well as using any external consumer data, algorithm or predictive model that unfairly discriminates against someone based on those factors.
“This law is about protecting consumers from unfair and predatory insurance practices that use personal information about someone, such as their religion, gender or disability, to charge them more, and we are not going to allow that in our state anymore,” said Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “It was disappointing to see the misinformation spread about this bill by special interest groups, but I’m proud that now in Colorado, no one will have to pay more or be denied an insurance product because of who they love, their religion, their race, a disability or where they live.”