Bill Would Repeal State Healthcare Exchange

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– State lawmakers are taking up a bill to repeal Connect for Health Colorado – the state healthcare exchange.

The sponsor of the bill says insurance companies are bailing from the exchange, premiums are skyrocketing, and taxpayers, who don’t even use the exchange, are subsidizing it.

“When this gets up to costing tens of millions of dollars and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, at some point I think we have to look at do the costs outweigh the pros on it,” said Sen. Jim Smallwood, a Republican representing Douglas County.

There have been questions about the financial sustainability of the exchange since it launched three years ago. Smallwood says, in more than a dozen counties, there is only one insurance carrier left on the exchange.

He says Coloradans would be better off – or at least not any worse – on the federal exchange, “If we can get the exact same thing and save the citizens of Colorado tens of millions of dollars, why wouldn’t we do that?”

However, some Democrats say pulling the plug now could make things worse.

“With President Trump saying he’s just going to get rid of everything, do we really want to add another year of chaos while we’re planning for the reality of whatever is going to happen?” says Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Democrat representing Denver.

She says she is also concerned about the financial viability of the exchange, but says with Congress in the process of dismantling Obamacare, now is not the time to kick Coloradans to the federal exchange.

“Because it may be in a year there are no exchanges or in two years or it maybe there are no advanced premium tax credits and then you’re having a different discussion,” said Aguilar.

She says it will be easier to build up from what we have now when the federal government pulls out of healthcare, as republicans have promised it will.

But Smallwood says the state needs to act now, “I’m the one in my role that’s going to need to be before the citizens of these counties if they end up with no options available and to say we did nothing because we wanted to wait to see what would happen in Washington, I don’t think that is fair to these citizens.”

Under the bill, Coloradans who use the state exchange would move to the federal exchange within a year. The bill will have an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled House.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.