Small business allies are keeping a watchful eye on House Bill 1346. If HB 1346 passes, minor children of a dependent child or an unmarried child will be eligible for health coverage if their address is the same as the policy holder. In other words, grandparents would have the option to include their grandchildren on their insurance policy.
“This bill adds people to the list of those who can be dependents on an insurance policy and adds costs to businesses,” said Jerry McElroy, director of government relations for Kaiser Permanente.
The bill follows the 2005 law extending health insurance coverage for employee dependents to age 25 – a law that, according to the National Federation of Independent Business Web site, has contributed to increasing health care costs for businesses.
Tony Gagliardi, director of the Colorado chapter of the NFIB, has issued a call to action to all NFIB members to oppose this bill. “We’ve testified against this bill,” Gagliardi said. “It’s bad policy … they keep expanding coverage to include one dependent, another dependent and another dependent, and something’s got to give. This is not the way to bring premium costs down. We will be scoring the lawmakers based on their vote.”
Status: HB 1346 passed in the House and was assigned to the Senate health committee.
Another bill that has drawn attention and divided physician groups and insurance companies and managed care organizations is Senate Bill 198, which standardizes physician contracts for all managed care organizations in Colorado.
“As it was introduced, it creates a one-standard contract,” McElroy said. “It’s a direction the state has not taken before – it’s been attempted in Texas, but failed both times. The governor has expressed concerns about going down that road and is looking at alternatives.”
Status: SB 198 has been assigned to the “committee as a whole” (Senate and House) for debate on its second reading.
SB 47 allows areas of the state to form health assurance districts and, through voter approval, levy taxes and authorize counties to impose a sales tax for the purpose of providing health care services.
Status: McElroy said SB 47 passed.
SB 44 would direct funds from the passage of Referenda C to a program that allows greater access to health care for low-income individuals. “It’s expected to pass,” McElroy said. “It’s a good, practical thing to do with some of the money.”
Status: SB 44 passed to the committee on appropriations.
A bill requiring that hospitals report infections is on its way to the governor, McElroy said. Colorado hospitals are behind HB 1045: Janet Stephens from the Colorado Health and Hospital Association testified in favor of the bill.
Two bills that directly affected small businesses were killed by their sponsors.
Sen. MaryAnne Keller from Jefferson County, who sponsored SB 017, asked that the bill be postponed indefinitely. The bill created the healthy business healthy people program to expand availability of coverage to qualifying small employers.
The bill called for a reinsurance arrangement, which allowed reimbursements for a certain amount of claims paid for eligible persons. It also created a premium subsidy plan to pay part of the premiums for plans offered by CoverColorado.
Sen. Keller said small business owners were not in favor of this bill.
The NFIB reported that House members killed HB 1327, which created a pilot program for an alternative base period for unemployment insurance benefits for those who did not make $2,500 during that period. In turn, it would have increased unemployment premiums. Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Cerbo from Denver joined his colleagues in defeating the bill.
A bill to provide premium subsidies to individuals enrolled in a qualifying health plan has been referred to a health care task force study. “The idea behind SB 35 is to, rather than create new programs, identify people who need help purchasing insurance and offer it through premium subsidies,” McElroy said.
At the federal level, President Bush is pushing for a federal law to allow small companies to band together and offer low-cost health insurance policies. The federal law would override state insurance regulations.
According to supporters, including the NFIB, the federal legislation allows insurers and small business associations to sell lower cost policies that exclude state-mandated benefits. The policies, however, must offer comprehensive coverage.
McElroy said this bill is a good compromise from previous legislation regarding association health plans.
In Colorado, there are a few more ideas “bubbling around” on Capitol Hill, McElroy said. “But they haven’t turned into words on paper quite yet.”