The recently proposed Colorado Health Insurance Option (HB21-1232) poses a real threat to our economy and our job creators. For consumers, the proposed state government-run health insurance system comes down to less choice, longer waits and higher costs.
According to a new study from Common Sense Institute, the proposed public option would impose price mandates for health care services in Colorado, without actually lowering the cost of delivering those services. As a result, payments to doctors, nurses, hospitals and other health-care providers for treating patients could be cut by as much as $1 billion by 2024. That’s $1 billion — with a “b” — in a system that has been pushed to the brink fighting the COVID pandemic.
Where does that $1 billion in cuts come from? Job cuts or cost shifts to other health-care consumers, especially those in employer-provided insurance plans. Neither option is good news for consumers.
We applaud lawmakers for examining ways to reduce costs, but this proposal misses the mark. You can’t simply wave a wand and mandate costs without putting access and quality at risk.
As people who manage an employer-sponsored health plan offered across 160 member companies, we know firsthand the challenges that arise when it comes to cost of health coverage and access to care. Construction by nature tends to be cyclical. For our members a plan that offers continuity of care is as important as affordability, access and quality. We have tailored our plan to fit our members and our industry.
Under the proposed Colorado Health Insurance Option — our plan is at risk. We have managed this plan for more than 60 years and have established a track record of success for our members. While premiums have increased on average 10% a year statewide since 2011, our multi-employer health insurance product that covers about 8,000 Coloradans in the state’s construction trades has been able to hold those increases to 3.1% a year by focusing on the three prongs of access, cost and quality.
Studies have shown that the state setting reimbursement rates could negatively impact all three of those factors. We have proven that we, as a private market, can put a health plan in place to compete for quality people and manage our expenses.
Any legislation that starts by taking away a health care plan that is working is just wrong.
Finally, consider the experience of Washington, the only other state in the nation with a public option. Although there are some differences with the proposed Colorado plan, the results of the Washington state experience should be a siren call to Coloradans — to stand up and said “no.” Since 2018, after Washington’s public option passed, premiums in that state increased 15.5%. Compare that to Colorado, where benchmark premiums have fallen by 25.3%. Let’s not make the same mistake as Washington.
There’s just too much unknown to move forward with an unvetted plan that could cause sweeping impacts to our health-care system as we work to overcome the COVID pandemic. Lawmakers must say “no” to the proposed Colorado Health Insurance Option. A real solution should expand access to medical service and address urgent and evolving needs throughout Colorado.
Gary Arnold is the business manager for Denver Pipefitters Local 208. Sean Wyatt is the business manager for Plumbers Local 3. Dave Davia is executive vice president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Mechanical Contractors Association (RMMCA).