What will the Colorado public health insurance option look like?

DENVER - State lawmakers passed a bill to kick-start research on a public health insurance option, which would create a government-run health insurance agency, making Colorado one of the first states in the country to create such a plan.

But what would the option entail? 

The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Department of Regulatory Agencies need to propose a plan in November if they want to stay on track to start enrollment in fall of 2020, and start operating in 2021. They've been having meetings to discuss all of the details.

We spoke with Kim Bimestefer, Executive Director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, who said they've been using their listening ears and doing some digging. "We heard from physicians, we heard from the hospital association, brokers, a payer, and the consumer... The loudest cry that we hear is that, when you look at affordability, don't just look at the price of the policy. Look at all of the out of pocket costs," Bimestefer said. 

She wouldn't budge on many of the details, saying it's way too early to discuss what the public health option will look like: "We don't want the cat out of the bag because we're still in a listening mode. And it's very important to listen before you frame concepts."

KRDO crews plan to speak with those public health officials today to find out what this means for people who might want to enroll, and how the public health option could affect private insurance rates.

We also reached out to local healthcare providers to see what kind of impact the public health option could have on healthcare facilities here in Southern Colorado.

You can hear what they have to say when the full story airs on KRDO NewsChannel 13 at 10 p.m.

Advocates for the public option say it will guarantee consumers have at least one comprehensive health insurance option across the state. They say it will also offer coverage at prices competitive to or below current rates for private insurance companies and those offered on Colorado's health care exchange.

However, critics say it could have detrimental effects on private health insurance companies. Bimestefer says the plan could actually include those companies: "Without being creative and collaborative, they might perceive a threat that actually might not be there."

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