By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
As difficult negotiations begin between the House and Senate over details concerning historic health care reform legislation, local proponents of the reform effort are hopeful that the final proposal will include a focus on affordability and stricter regulations on the insurance industry.
But their opponents say the two proposals — the House version with a price tag of $1.05 trillion and the Senate version with a price tag of $871 billion — would come at a hefty burden to Colorado taxpayers and wreak havoc on the state’s budget.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis issued a news release following the Christmas Eve filibuster-proof 60 votes in favor of the bill. He said the current proposals by both the House and Senate would increase Medicaid enrollment by 70 percent in Colorado, which would be a cost passed on to taxpayers.
“There is no question that we need health care reform, but a bill forced through by a partisan effort on Christmas Eve that aims to exclude solutions outside of the Democrats’ narrow ideological focus will do more harm than its intended good,” McInnis said.
He points out that Coloradans already pay 50 percent of the state’s Medicaid payments. In 2007, those payments equaled $2.9 billion, said McInnis.
But Dede de Percin, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said what McInnis is failing to point out is that health reform is expected to save states millions of dollars by providing the uninsured with health insurance and creating a healthier society. De Percin points out that uncompensated health care costs Colorado about $598 million per year. She added that with both the bill in the House and the bill in the Senate, the federal government would increase its financing of Medicaid programs for individual states.
Also, a law backed by Colorado lawmakers earlier this year will assist in dealing with any expansion to the Medicaid program, said de Percin. She points to the Colorado Healthcare Affordability Act that allows hospitals to pay an additional provider fee to the state, which is matched on the federal level, thereby increasing Medicaid reimbursements.
As Coloradans become healthier and about 820,000 uninsured Coloradans secure insurance, the financial burden to the state will decrease, said de Percin.
“It’s not just on the sheer money analysis, like the cost analysis, but it’s about having healthier people, healthier communities, more productive employees in businesses — all those things,” she said. “The more we invest in health care, there are tangible and less tangible economic consequences that strengthen our economy.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters