ICYMI: Diverse Voices Express Opposition To The State Government Option (House Bill 21-1232)

May 14, 2021

DENVER – Ahead of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing on Monday to consider House Bill 21-1232 – which would create a new state government-controlled health insurance system, known as the state government option – a rising number of diverse voices throughout Colorado have expressed serious concerns about the unanswered questions and unknown costs and consequences of this proposal.

A recent article from the Colorado Sun reports that “much is still unclear” about the latest version of HB1232. From the uncertain number of consumers that would benefit and utilize the state government option, to the claims that it would deliver lower prices and savings for consumers, despite a lack of clarity as to how low the prices will be set, to the unclear level of decreased federal subsidies as a result of lower premiums – there are still many unanswered questions about HB1232. 

This week, 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.”

Today, Angel Merlos, coalitions director for The LIBRE Initiative-Colorado, expressed similar concerns in an opinion piece in Colorado Politics, writing, “This is something many Latinos, especially those from Venezuela and Cuba, understood well. They know that there is a world of difference between what a public insurance option promises and what, historically, it has been able to deliver.” 

Merlos adds, “The result would be single-payer by another means, a process by which lawmakers would push private insurers and their policyholders to the margins. Research has shown this: A rise in the use of public health insurance programs results in a corresponding drop in the number of people covered by private insurance.”

“That isn’t the only problem with a public option. There is another that many Latinos understand well: Government-run care results in worse health outcomes,” concludes Merlos.

In a recent opinion piece in Colorado PoliticsDr. Terri Richardson, an internal medicine specialist in Denver, discussed the proposed state government option and its potential impact on racial and ethnic minority communities in Colorado, stating, “…establishing a new, state government-run public option could ultimately hurt the very communities it is purportedly designed to help, leaving racial and ethnic minorities communities behind yet again.”

Richardson concludes, “Lawmakers need to consider the larger implications of the policies they put forward. It is simply not going to be possible to enforce government mandates that set arbitrarily low rates across the health care spectrum without an adverse impact on patient access. Especially in rural and underserved areas, slashing rates will likely only lead to a mass exodus of qualified doctors, contributing to a shortage of physicians that is already taking its toll on at-risk communities. Inevitably, the public option will hurt the patients that need our help most.”

Lawmakers would be wise to slow down, allow for more analysis and focus instead on solutions that strengthen our existing health care system. Coloradans deserve proven solutions that provide access to affordable, high-quality health coverage and care – not an untested one-size-fits-all system controlled by politicians that would disrupt Colorado’s integrated health care system and threaten Coloradans’ access to care, especially among members of racial and ethnic minority communities.