10,000 DougCo Residents Could Lose Health Insurance Under State Senator’s Plan

Mar 23rd, 2017 | By | Category: Featured, Health & Fitness

Denver, CO—Freshman Senator Jim Smallwood (R-Parker) is sponsoring a bill in the State Senate that would repeal Connect for Health Colorado, the state-run healthcare marketplace set up under the Affordable Care Act.

178,000 Coloradans are currently enrolled in health plans through the state exchange. 10,397 residents of Douglas County were enrolled in 2016. The bill would transfer enrollees to the federally-run exchange, which is in political limbo as Republicans in Congress are working hard to repeal and replace the ACA.

Sen. Smallwood.  Photo credit: John Tomasic

Smallwood’s bill would have Connect for Health Colorado shut down on January 1, 2018, and all enrollees would be transferred to healthcare.gov. Congressional Republicans’ healthcare alternative would most likely disband the federal exchange, leaving Coloradans on healthcare.gov with no insurance.

“I think there is a tremendous amount of fear that repealing our state exchange will in some way put people’s coverage in jeopardy,” Smallwood said. “And everybody needs to know that if that was the case, we as Republicans certainly wouldn’t be supporting it here in Colorado.”

Introducing the bill, Smallwood expressed concerns over the financial stability of Connect for Health Colorado, as it has operated in the red since operations began in 2012. Current projections estimate that—left untouched—the marketplace will be solvent for the first time in fiscal year 2018, taking in $35.3 million and spending $35.2 million.

He also estimates that the state could save $5 million annually by shuttering the marketplace. The bill’s fiscal analysis instead projected a onetime $2.6 million cost for closing down, and Connect for Health Colorado Director Kevin Patterson estimates the cost to be as high as $23 million, based on the cost other states have accrued from shutting down their exchanges.

Smallwood’s bill has no Democratic support, and other lawmakers have pushed back against it. “There may not even be a federal marketplace in a year,” Senator Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) said. “Why would we put our consumers through that uncertainty until we know what’s really going to happen. This just feels premature.”

In February, the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill on a party line vote, 3-2. It has been moved to the Appropriations Committee, which has not yet scheduled a hearing for the bill.

Should the bill pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, it is unlikely to do so in the Democratic-controlled House. Governor John Hickenlooper has not said if he would sign the bill.

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