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Ritter Issues Order, Names Director To Smooth Health Reform

By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Gov. Bill Ritter Tuesday issued an executive order creating an inter-agency task force and naming a director to implement components of federal health care reform backed by a Democrat-controlled Congress last month.
Colorado Republicans immediately criticized the governor for establishing the task force, arguing that the reform legislation is unconstitutional.
Republican Attorney General John Suthers has entered Colorado into a multi-state lawsuit seeking to exempt the state from health reform mandates. The lawsuit argues that Congress does not have the authority to regulate interstate commerce that would force consumers to carry health insurance.
Republican state lawmakers last month said they would also fight to exempt the state from a federal mandate requiring all citizens to buy insurance or pay a penalty.
And Jon Caldara, president of the libertarian Independence Institute, is pushing a 2010 ballot initiative that would exempt Coloradans from the federal mandate.
But Ritter, a Democrat, moved forward with implementing the reform effort on the state level. His executive order names Lorez Meinhold, Ritter’s health care policy expert, as director of national reform implementation for Colorado. The order also creates a new inter-agency implementation board, to be chaired by Joan Henneberry, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
The 11-member board will make recommendations on how to implement the reform effort, which President Obama and fellow Democrats believe will extend health coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans. A key component of the legislation includes preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Ritter and Meinhold said one difficult implementation task for the state will be how to create a new high-risk insurance pool for Coloradans, as well as having insurance companies comply with mandates such as eliminating lifetime benefit caps.
“Colorado has never waited for Washington on health care reform, and we aren’t about to start waiting now,” Ritter said in a statement. “Because of our efforts the past few years, Colorado is better positioned than most states to make the most of national reform.”
Ritter signed the executive order Tuesday afternoon at Denver Health Medical Center. He also signed four pieces of state health reform legislation that aims at increasing the state’s health care workforce and assisting consumers in obtaining insurance policies that are easy to understand.
Republicans, however, used the opportunity to lash out at the governor and fellow Democrats for supporting the health reform effort. In a letter to Ritter, Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, and Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud said instead of an executive order creating an implementation task force, Ritter should work with lawmakers on legislation rather than “simply imposing a framework unilaterally through fiat.”?“Health care reform is a complex and controversial issue,” the two state lawmakers wrote. “The public is entitled to more than an edict from the governor, an afternoon photo opportunity and a flashy press release.”

In other coverage:

The Denver Business Journal: Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed an executive order Tuesday that will begin the process of ensuring the federal health-reform act is implemented in the state.
The executive order forms the Interagency Health Reform Implementing Board, which will be responsible for putting together a state health exchange as well as ensuring that private insurance companies in the state conform to new federal requirements. Republicans — who generally have opposed the health-reform measure recently passed by the Democratic majority in Congress and signed by President Barack Obama — wasted no time blasting Ritter’s order.

KDVR: Weeks after being treated at Denver Health for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident, Gov. Bill Ritter returned to the hospital to sign an executive order to speed up the implementation of federal health care reforms and to make sure those reforms mesh well with other measures already underway in the state. Ritter’s executive order names Lorez Meinhold, his health care policy expert, as a director of implementation and creates a new task force to figure out how to best put national reforms into practice in Colorado.

Pueblo Chieftain: Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday announced Colorado’s localized prescription for national health care. He said the state is on better footing that most to adapt to the changes because of Colorado’s efforts in recent years to expand health care coverage to residents. For Coloradans, Ritter said, health care reform on the national level will lower insurance premiums by as much as 25 percent, create up to 23,000 jobs in the medical and information-technology fields and open the door for better access to medical care for up to 500,000 people presently without insurance coverage.

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