ICYMI: Voices Across Colorado Oppose The State Government Option (House Bill 21-1232)

May 19, 2021

DENVER – As lawmakers prepare to debate House Bill 21-1232 during the Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing today, leaders throughout Colorado continue to express concern about the costs and negative consequences of a state government-controlled health insurance system. A growing chorus of voices is encouraging lawmakers to instead to slow down, weigh the facts, and work together to build on and improve what’s working in health care to provide Coloradans with access to affordable, high-quality health coverage and care.

Mike Randle, M.D. and CEO of UCHealth Medical Group, states in a recent opinion piece in Colorado Politics, “If HB-1232 were to pass, our patients and health care teams would suffer. Such drastic cuts to hospital reimbursements will affect our staffing, limit our ability to innovate and invest in new equipment, and will harm our efforts to give patients the very best care…This bill will bring significant unintended consequences and harm our state’s high-quality health care system.”

Colorado Medical Society (CMS) issued a recent press release on HB21-1232 where Dr. Sami Diab, president of CMS, warns, “The mandatory participation requirement will exacerbate Colorado’s existing physician shortage by driving doctors out of the state and making it harder to recruit new ones to practice medicine here. With fewer physicians, patients will have less options for care, hurting those in our rural and underserved communities the most.”

The voice of Colorado physicians has been loud and clear with three out of four physicians in opposition to HB21-1232. Proponents claim that this bill will save money, but in reality, HB21-1232 fails to address the primary drivers of high health care costs and prioritize high-quality care. In the end, HB21-1232 will cost the state, taxpayers and patients more money, while access and quality of care suffer,” concludes Diab.

In a recent opinion piece in Colorado PoliticsLaura Giocomo Rizzo, senior vice president of external affairs of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, writes HB21-1232 is “illogical and short-sighted” and that “this legislation won’t solve any of our health care cost challenges – it simply shifts the burden.” She adds, “Coloradans need market-driven, sustainable solutions that will lower costs for all of us, not gimmicks that only reshuffle the costs” and lawmakers “should focus on solutions that benefit us all.”

Kevin Unger, president and CEO of UCHealth in Northern Colorado, expresses concern with the proposed 18% health-insurance premium reduction over three years, stating, “[HB21-1232 proposed 18% premium reduction] affects our ability to operate certain programs… In order to stay viable, we have to look at programs and staffing to reduce expenses to drive down those premiums. I worry about our ability to recruit and retain staff and physicians. We’ve been blessed with world class physicians who come to Colorado. 

Mike Bergerson, CEO of the Orthopaedic and Spine Center of the Rockies, echoed Unger’s concerns, stating HB21-1232 is “a big cleaver approach” and that lawmakers “don’t understand how deep the cuts are going to go.” He questions, “How are we going to attract the best quality doctors? How do we offer behavioral health [care] if the public option goes through?”

Christine Foote-Lucero, a forensic program manager at UCHealth, writes in an opinion piece in Colorado Politics that “HB1232 requires hospitals to shoulder the burden of reducing Colorado’s health care costs by slashing their reimbursement and setting rates well below actual costs — putting programs, like the forensic program I work with, at risk.” 

In an opinion piece in the Times-CallScott Cook, CEO of the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce, highlights the negative consequences of HB21-1232 and writes the proposal is “the wrong approach” and “full of big and risky ideas, but short on critically important details, the measure puts our health care and our economy at risk.” He adds, HB21-1232 “will increase health care costs for the majority of Coloradans. It will result in less competition and consumer choice. It will reduce access to care throughout the state. There is the potential for significant cost burden to Colorado’s budget, businesses and/or taxpayers.

Coloradans deserve proven solutions that provide access to affordable, high-quality health coverage and care – not a new state government-controlled health insurance system. Lawmakers would be wise to slow down, allow for more analysis and focus instead on solutions that strengthen our existing health care system.