ICYMI: ‘Creating A Public Option For Colorado Health Insurance Would Be A Mistake’

May 12, 2021

DENVER – Following this week’s vote by the Colorado House of Representatives to advance House Bill 21-1232 – which would create a new state government-controlled health insurance system, also known as the state government option – Wellington Webb, former long-time mayor of Denver, writes in an opinion piece in the Denver Post“While I certainly understand the need to lower costs and improve access, I do not agree with some lawmakers in the state legislature that the best way to do that is by attempting to create a massive, state government-run health insurance system.” 

Webb continues, “In fact, I believe that such a system will only serve to increase the disparities facing some of Colorado’s most vulnerable communities while massively increasing costs and concentrating too much power in Colorado’s insurance commissioner’s office.”  

As a former state legislator in the Colorado General Assembly, he suggests, “While I served in the Colorado General Assembly, I was the lead sponsor for three insurance bills … These bills passed, but we all know that’s only half of the battle, and I was in for a rude awakening.”

He warns, “When I later returned to state government as executive director of Regulatory Agencies, which includes the Division of Insurance which is run by the insurance commissioner, I was angry to learn none of the insurance legislation that was approved years before had been implemented. This is a clear example of what can go wrong when a non-elected person, like the insurance commissioner, has too much authority. The same is true with the current proposal that would give the insurance commissioner too much power over our health insurance system. It is a bad idea.”

Webb states, “Sadly, the health care system here in Colorado and across the country is riddled with disparities that impact the quality of and access to care for racial and ethnic minority communities. This has become all the more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He adds, “Rather than addressing these disparities, a state-run public health care option would only exacerbate them.”

“In these underserved communities, hospitals often fill a vital role in providing access to health care services that residents may not otherwise be able to find. Threatening the ability of these facilities to keep their doors open by arbitrarily reducing reimbursement rates under a new state health insurance plan would put already vulnerable Coloradans at greater risk. Increased hospital closures, which could be an indirect result of the state government option, would also deal a devastating economic blow to Colorado’s small towns and rural communities,” writes Webb. 

He continues, “On top of that, the state government option would likely fail to deliver on the promise of lowering costs. In Washington, the only state in the nation to impose such a health care system, premiums have increased instead of decreased, with some coming in at nearly 30% more expensive than what was available through the ACA’s marketplace last year. Is that really the future Colorado legislators want for our state?”

“Bottom line, pushing through an untested, ill-advised state government-run option for health insurance doesn’t serve the best interests of Coloradans, particularly those already facing major health care disparities,” Webb adds.

He concludes, “Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel — and doing it less successfully — state legislators should look for opportunities to build upon what is working in our current system while passing more practical policy measures to address what isn’t. Ultimately, that’s the right way to improve health.”

  • To read the full opinion piece in the Denver Post, CLICK HERE.