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Colorado GOP pushes bill to repeal state health care exchange, but governor will fight

Posted: 9:18 AM, Jan 13, 2017
Updated: 2017-01-13 16:19:12Z

DENVER – Two of the first bills filed in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate aim to make huge changes in state health care – one that would repeal the state’s health exchange and one that would require state Medicaid recipients to enter into a written agreement if they use a non-enrolled provider.

Both bills are being pushed by new Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City. Senate Republican Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, affirmed the party's opposition to the state exchange Thursday.

Senate Bill 3 , which is co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Smallwood and Rep. Patrick Neville, both Douglas County Republicans, would repeal the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, the state exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

But the bill, seen as a mirror to the effort by Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, offers no replacement plan or suggestions on the benefits of repealing the exchange, which is used by more than 200,000 Coloradans.

If enacted, which is unlikely because the state House is controlled by Democrats and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper supports the exchange, it would repeal the state exchange as of Jan. 1, 2018, though it would give lawmakers until the end of that year to “wind up” the exchange.

After that, the exchange would have to give any remaining money left over to the state treasurer, who would be directed to transfer the money to the state’s general fund.

Should it pass and be signed by the governor, however, a referendum petition could be filed to force a General Election vote on the matter in November 2018.

“It is time to repeal the broken Exchange and build plans for more robust, accessible and affordable health care for Coloradans,” Smallwood said in a statement on the bill, though the plans were not outlined.

Grantham pointed to a recently-released audit that showed the state had misspent or not documented nearly $10 million in federal funds used for the program as reasons for repealing it.

In his State of the State address Thursday, Gov. Hickenlooper said he will fight the repeal of the ACA , but if it is repealed, he said he would fight for a replacement plan “that protects the people who are covered now and doesn’t take us backward.”

SENATE BILL 4 OPENS NON-MEDICAID PROVIDERS TO MEDICAID RECIPIENTS

The other Republican-backed health care bill, Senate Bill 4 , was billed by Senate Republicans in a news release Wednesday as allowing “Medicaid recipients to receive treatment from health care providers that are not covered within the Medicaid network.”

One in five Coloradans are covered by Medicaid through the state program, Health First Colorado.

The bill would amend state statute so that people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, Health First Colorado, would be able to seek treatment from providers not enrolled in the state Medicaid program.

State law already bars providers that are enrolled in the program to charge customers more than what Health First Colorado reimburses.

The changes to the law would make it so the prohibition on charging recipients using Health First Colorado for medical services would apply only to the providers that are enrolled with Health First.

Anyone using the program who chooses to go to a non-enrolled provider would have to sign a written agreement with that provider saying that they would pay the cost of the medical services.

The changes would not apply to any services not covered under Health First Colorado, which have to be paid out-of-pocket by the patient regardless of what provider they see.

Sen. Jack Tate, R-Arapahoe Co., is the bill's cosponsor. He sponsored a similar bill last year, which was labeled Senate Bill 162, which also passed the Senate but failed in the end.

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