Commission Fine-Tuning Fifth Health Reform Proposal

Colorado’s 208 Commission is continuing to refine its own proposal for reforming the state’s health-care system.

  The consulting firm that is modeling the state’s health-care reform proposals last week delivered a second round of results regarding a modified fifth proposal to the 208 Commission, a panel charged with making health-care reform recommendations to the legislature. The Lewin Group, a Virginia-based consulting company, has already modeled the first four proposals, which were chosen by the commission out of 31 submitted by groups around the state. After studying those proposals, the commission is now in the process of completing its own.

Under the commission’s plan, all Colorado residents would be required to have health insurance and would have to submit proof when filing taxes. Those who didn’t would be assessed a penalty. The plan would expand eligibility for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and subsidies for private coverage would be available to people earning under 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $62,000 a year for a family of four. 

The original plan included a subsidy for people under 400 percent of the federal poverty level, but the threshold was lowered after the first round of modeling showed the state would need an additional $1.4 billion in revenue. After taking that modification and a few others into consideration, the Lewin Group estimates the state would need about $1 billion in new revenue. The proposal suggests the money could come from sin taxes on things such as cigarettes and junk food. That’s left uncertain, however, since the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires voters to approve such taxes.

The Lewin Group found the proposal would reduce health-care spending for families earning less than $75,000 a year. Those earning between $20,000 and $29,999 would save the most – an estimated $1,252 a year. Families earning between $75,000 and $99,999 would pay about $400 a year more than they do now, and families earning more than $150,000 would pay an extra $1,839.

About 3 percent of the population would be left uninsured under the proposal, an estimated 38 percent of whom would be undocumented workers. Currently, about 16 percent of Coloradans are uninsured.

Overall health-care spending in Colorado – which includes money from public, private, individual and business sources – is currently $30.1 billion. The Commission’s plan would add about $900 million to that. The Lewin Group estimates three of the other four plans would also increase spending, ranging from an additional $300 million to $1.3 billion. Only one proposal, the “single-payer” plan, would decrease overall spending.

The commission will continue refining the fifth proposal to further contain costs and then send it back to the Lewin Group for a third round of modeling. The panel will present its recommendations to the legislature in January.


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