Colorado Sun: Colorado lawmakers nixed an experiment to allow people to buy into state employees’ health coverage. Here’s why
The inability to make the proposed pilot program work could impact Colorado’s plan to create a health insurance “public option”
It just wasn’t supposed to be this hard.
At the beginning of the legislative session, state Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat whose district is home to some of the highest health insurance prices in the country, introduced a bill with a simple, little pilot program included. The experiment would allow 100 people in Garfield and Eagle counties to buy into the medical coverage that state employees receive.
The idea was that, by allowing access to a larger insurance pool, people could find cheaper coverage. But there was also a bigger goal in mind. This would be a tentative first test of one of the holy grails of Democratic health policy going all the way back to the earliest debates over the Affordable Care Act: the “public option.”
In political terms, a public option sits on the spectrum halfway between the system we’ve got now and the single-payer plans being championed by liberals like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. It’s a government-run, government-backed health plan that competes in the free market against private insurance companies.
And so Donovan’s pilot program was an attempt to gather some data on what that might look like. Who might be most inclined to sign up? How much would it cost to insure them?
That data would come in handy in conjunction with another bill this session that instructs state regulators to draw up still-amorphous plans for a statewide public option.
But then the figures to make the test work came back. And, at a hearing last month, Donovan reluctantly pulled the pilot program from her bill.
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