By Andrew Romanoff
Let's say your state faces an opioid epidemic. And a shortage of psychiatric care. And one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.
Let's say you live in Colorado. If you're an optimist, you might turn to Congress for help. At the very least, you'd expect your representatives and senators not to make matters worse.
Unfortunately, the Senate Republicans' new health care plan would do real harm to Colorado and to the rest of the country. Since the Senate may vote on this proposal before the end of the week, it's important to speak out right now.
The GOP plan is called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. But if you or someone you love is - or might someday become - old, disabled or sick, there's almost nothing "better" about it. Consider these provisions:
- Under current law, insurers cannot charge older customers more than three times as much as younger ones. The Senate proposal, like its House counterpart, would allow insurers to charge older customers up to five times as much.
- Nearly 1.4 million low-income and disabled Coloradans, including more than 40 percent of children in rural Colorado and 60 percent of our state's nursing home residents, rely on Medicaid. The Republican plan would slash funding for the program and leave hundreds of thousands of Coloradans uninsured.
- Current law requires insurers to cover the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, preventive services, and a list of other essential benefits; prohibits insurers from imposing annual or lifetime limits on coverage; and caps out-of-pocket expenses. Under the GOP plan, states could drop those protections.
The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency, is calculating the costs and consequences of the Senate proposal. But if the House version is any guide, this health care plan would hurt millions of Americans and help relatively few.
At Mental Health Colorado, we're seeking ways to improve care, expand coverage, and lower costs. We're building a statewide network of advocates to advance those goals. We call it the Brain Wave, and we invite you to join us. In the meantime, we urge you to call Colorado's senators. Tell them how you'd vote on this bill - before it's too late.
Andrew Romanoff is the president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado.