Wed May 4, 2011

Colorado Health Exchange Bill Approved

Republicans in the Colorado House of Representatives split widely to approve a health insurance exchange bill on Wednesday that will change the way 1 million Coloradans buy health insurance beginning in 2014.

Thirteen Republicans sided with traditional business allies, who supported the exchange bill, while 20 voted with tea party conservatives who viewed the state exchange as too closely tied to the federal insurance law they oppose.

In all, 31 Democrats voted for SB 200 in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, with one Democrat, Rep. John Soper, opposing.

The bill needs reconciliation of the House and Senate versions before it can go to supporter Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, for signing into law.

The Colorado exchange is expected to be a staffed website that helps consumers weigh apples-to-apples comparisons on insurance policies instead of examining more than 1,000 different plans. The website is expected to help users sort policies according to their preferences, including such factors as price and whether they will be able to continue seeing the same doctor.

Fierce opponents of federal health care reform disliked the exchange because it also will be the means for distributing health insurance subsidies -- if the federal health law is not overturned in the courts or as a result of the 2012 elections. Under the federal law, insurers also will have to simplify the policies they offer on the state exchanges into five main categories.

Proponents, which included a broad coalition of business and consumer groups, said the exchange would be good for Colorado consumers and small businesses, regardless of the fate of the federal law.

Republicans voting for the bill included Speaker of the House Frank McNulty and the bill’s co-sponsor, Amy Stephens, who had wavered when faced with opposition from within her party.