In Silverthorne, Gov. Jared Polis signs two major health care bills into law
Gov. Jared Polis visited Summit County on Friday as part of a bill-signing tour from Westminster to Grand Junction touting legislative accomplishments made in the first five months of his governorship. In Summit, Polis signed bills bolstering winter traction laws and right-of-way for snow plows on the state’s roads, as well as bills that aim to lower the cost of health insurance.
On the health care front, Polis visited the Family & Intercultural Resource Center in Silverthorne to sign two major bills aimed at lowering premiums, especially on the Western Slope where residents pay among the highest premiums in the country.
The first bill Polis signed was HB19-168, the State Innovation Waiver Reinsurance Program, which establishes a program for insurance companies that is expected to almost immediately reduce premiums for Summit and Western Slope residents, particularly members of the individual insurance market who are seeing the biggest premium hikes.
The bill was touted as a major legislative accomplishment, given how it took 119 of the session’s 120 days to pass and required extensive consensus-building before it came to fruition.
“This bill will make an enormous difference in the short-term,” Polis said before signing the bill. “People on the Western Slope should expect a price reduction of 20% to 35% next year.”
State Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) said the bill was the “craziest, most complicated” bill to get passed, while co-sponsor Rep. Julie McCluskie said the bill addressed one of the main priorities for her constituents in the High Country.
“Reinsurance was the heaviest lift of any bill we carried this year,” McCluskie said. “It was a complex policy, the goals were lofty, and in the end, I could not be more proud of our work to keep stakeholders at the table and deliver reduced premiums to people in the individual market.”
The second bill, SB19-004, titled Address High-Cost Health Insurance Pilot Program, was inspired by Summit County’s own Peak Health Alliance health care purchasing collaborative. The bill cleans up existing statutory language to make it easier for other communities to replicate the co-op purchasing model.
State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) was prime sponsor for the bill in the Senate, and said its biggest benefit was to give more power to communities, promoting the ability to rally together and have more leverage in negotiating health costs.
“This bill will give small communities the power and voice to negotiate lower health costs,” Donovan said. “We’re taking the power from the golden dome in Denver and bringing it up to the mountains.”
Polis was also flanked at the signing by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera and state Legislature Rep. Janice Rich (R-Grand Junction), who co-sponsored the reinsurance program bill, and state Sen. Dylan Roberts (D-Eagle), who co-sponsored the pilot program bill.
Tamara Drangstveit, currently executive director of FIRC, who will be starting her new position as executive director of the Peak Health Alliance in July, said she was proud of how the work she and other community leaders put into building Peak developed into the model officially sanctioned for use across the state.
“I am so grateful to this administration that they really focus on health care, and see what a crisis it is for Summit workers,” she said. “It’s incredibly rewarding for FIRC that all of our hard work over the past decade is starting to pay off.”
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