Panel Approves State Health Reform Recommendations

Colorado’s Blue Ribbon Commission For Health Care Reform approved a set of recommendations Monday that will be presented to the legislature in January. The panel, also called the 208 Commission after the bill that created it, has been working for the past year to find ways to reduce health care spending in the state and cover more of the uninsured.The commission decided not to recommend one of the five proposals it analyzed and is instead drawing elements from each of them. A key recommendation will be that all Coloradans be required to carry basic health insurance. To help with the cost, the commission will suggest expansions of public programs, subsidies for low-income households and a requirement that businesses provide pretax health plans to employees. The commission will also recommend that private health plans be required to cover everyone regardless of their health status, with high-risk pools for people with chronic illnesses.

Other recommendations include creating a “connector” to help people understand and find different insurance plans, paying medical providers based on quality of care, encouraging adoption of health information technology and adequately funding safety net programs.

Twenty commissioners voted in favor of the recommendation package, two voted against it and five were not present. The two dissenters were the Independence Institute’s Linda Gorman, an outspoken supporter of a free-market solution, and Mark Simon, an equally outspoken advocate for the disabled. Gorman and Simon will express their views in minority reports, which will be discussed along with the majority report at the commission’s Dec. 13 meeting.

Once the majority report is approved, the recommendations will be presented to the legislature Jan. 31. Lawmakers will then decide whether to try to implement the recommendations and how to fund them. The 208 Commission looked at different ways to fund health care reforms, such as higher income taxes and junk food taxes, but it is not recommending specific funding measures.

The complete list of approved recommendations is available on the 208 Commission Web site.