Colorado Capitol Report

Public Option Proposal Faces Turmoil Ahead of First Committee Hearing

Public Option Proposal Faces Turmoil Ahead of First Committee Hearing

HB 1232, the state public option proposal, faced its first committee hearing today after negotiations with stakeholders fell apart and opposition grew. 

A coalition of health care industry groups, including members of the Colorado Chamber, today announced a coalition united against the bill. In a joint statement, the Colorado Hospital Association, Colorado Medical Society, and Colorado Association of Health Plans said that despite months of working with proponents and legislators in good-faith negotiations to find a workable solution, they were unable to reach consensus with legislators and the Polis administration before committee on legislation that would achieve the cost savings that Coloradans are seeking and protect access to high-quality health care. 

“The health care industry continues to innovate to provide high quality, affordable health care to Coloradans while reducing premiums by 28 percent since 2019 and increasing competition in Colorado counties,” said Amanda Massey, CAHP executive director. “This bill ignores the progress being achieved in order to establish a government run health insurance authority that relies on taxpayer dollars and doesn’t play by the same rules. Coloradans want common sense solutions in health care – not a foundation for a single payer health care system that will reduce quality and eliminate choice of doctors, hospitals, and health plans.”

In addition, union and industry leaders also raised concerns about the legislation before the hearing, citing too many unknowns and concerns about cost. In an op-ed in the Gazette, Gary Arnold (Denver Pipefitters Local 208), Sean Wyatt (Plumbers Local 3) and Dave Davia (Rocky Mountain Mechanical Contractors Association) said that while they applaud lawmakers for trying to reduce cost, HB 1232 misses the mark. 

“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,” the op-ed says.

The Colorado Chamber voted to oppose HB 1232 last month, concerned that it would increase the cost of employer-sponsored health care. 

Katie Wolf testified against the bill in committee on behalf of the Chamber, emphasizing that while employers agree with the goal of health care cost reduction, HB 1232 would do more to shift costs than lower costs. 

“Unfortunately just because cost reduction is required, doesn’t mean that the cost goes away, it is simply redistributed,” Wolf said. “This cost shift will directly impact health care consumers who currently have insurance outside of the public option and those with employer sponsored coverage. Our initial estimates show a cost shift between $830 million and $1 billion dollars, increasing the strain on employers still trying to recover from the economic losses caused by Covid. This cost shift translates into a potential loss of between 4,300 and 5,200 jobs in Colorado.”

The bill continues to be heard in the House Health & Insurance Committee this afternoon. To listen live, click here.

Colorado Chamber Votes to Oppose SB 197, SB 200

The Colorado Chamber has recently taken positions on the following bills:

SB 197: Oppose

This legislation relates to the treating physician in workers’ compensation cases. SB 197 eliminates all of the worker’s compensation physician choice statutory provisions that were negotiated between the Colorado Chamber and AFL-CIO & WCEA through a long drawn-out process between 2013 and 2014. The bill also allows a change of doctor up until maximum medical improvement (MMI) causing a prolonged process for workers to return to work and potentially increasing WC costs for employers. Unfortunately, no advance discussion of this legislation was conducted with the Colorado Chamber or other business entities.

For those reasons, the Chamber’s Labor and Employment Council voted to oppose the bill this week. The bill was assigned to the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

SB 200: Oppose

This bill would adopt measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and protections for disproportionately impacted communities. This bill supplements the AQCC’s effort to reduce greenhouses gas emissions (GHG) by:

  • Considering the social costs of GHG
  • Requiring GHG reductions on a linear or more stringent path
  • Finalize the implementing rules by March 1, 2022 – including specific net emission sectors
  • Directing each wholesale generation and transmission electric cooperative to file with the PUC a responsible energy plan that will achieve at least 80% reduction by 2030 compared to 2030
  • Directing each retail, wholesale and municipal utility and electric coop to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 95% between 2035 and 2040 and 100% by 2040
  • Adds GHG to the definition of “regulated pollutant”
  • Requires the AQCC’s GHG reporting rules to establish an assumed emission rate representing the average regional fossil fuel generation emission rate
  • Creates an environmental justice ombudsman

The Colorado Chamber’s Energy and Environment Council voted to oppose the legislation this week. SB 200 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee on April 20th, 2021.

See the status of all of the Chamber’s bill positions by clicking here.

Legislative Alert: Tell Lawmakers to Vote NO on Senate Bill 176

Senate Bill 176, the “Protecting Opportunities and Workers Rights Act,” has been moving forward in the state legislature and we need your help to tell lawmakers to vote NO.

This bill completely upends Colorado’s established system of civil rights laws and increases litigation costs for employers and workers. Problematic provisions of the bill include:

  • Broadening the definition of a hostile work environment to anything that “undermines a person’s sense of well-being,” which could lead to frivolous claims.
  • Making employers responsible for the conduct of independent contractors, even though employers cannot exercise direct control or supervision over these individuals.
  • Contradicting federal law by changing the standard for which claims can be considered discriminatory, removing the requirement that conduct must be “severe or pervasive” in order to file a claim.
  • Removing the ability to reach confidential settlements, which will encourage the likelihood of drawn-out, costly lawsuits.
  • Requiring employers to create a discrimination program with “documented success” – without defining parameters or acknowledging any current policies businesses have enacted.

If passed, this bill will lead to costly new lawsuits for employers at a time when businesses are still struggling to recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic. The bill even exempts state government from complying with the litigation due to the potential for expensive litigation.

SB 176 is expected to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee soon. We need your help in contacting members of the senate to tell them to vote “NO” on Senate Bill 176. Please click here to send an email to these lawmakers with just a few clicks.

New Report Details Federal Relief Package Funding to Colorado

The Common Sense Institute this week released a report detailing more than $65 billion in combined federal aid to Colorado to address the public health crisis and stimulate the economy. According to the report, current estimates indicate the following approximate shares to each category that have either received federal relief aid funds or expect to receive funds; 41% to households, 25% to businesses, 18% to state and local governments and 16% is unspecified.

$3.9 billion in federal aid remains to be spent at the discretion of the governor and lawmakers from the latest stimulus.

“Policymakers should use this opportunity to consider the state’s long-term needs and ensure the remaining stimulus funding supports ongoing growth and prosperity for all Coloradans,” the report says. “The $3.9 billion presents a unique opportunity for Colorado to continue to invest in its recovery while prioritizing the future. The state has several major fiscal crises looming that could be directly addressed with this pot of one-time funds.”

The Common Sense Institute detailed four ways the additional federal funds could be spent to help fuel the state economy:

  • Replenish the unemployment insurance trust fund and stop taking federal loans.
  • Pay down some of PERA’s unfunded liability to prevent future rate increases that reduce funding for schools and lower take-home pay for teachers.
  • Increase the state reserve fund.
  • Leverage COVID-19 relief aid as matching funds to jumpstart new one-time capital infrastructure projects.

View the report in detail by clicking here.

Award-Winning Diversity Equity & Inclusion Program Offered to Colorado Business

Are you ready to talk about inclusion in your organization? Let Colorado REACH help you guide the conversation.…

The Colorado Chamber is proud to partner with Colorado REACH to offer members of the Colorado Chamber an opportunity to experience BREAKING ICE—the award-winning diversity equity and inclusion program for business.

Through a series of dynamic scenes, audiences explore how systemic inequities, implicit biases and common misperceptions show up in relationships and in the workplace. The performance is followed by facilitated break outs.

Register here or contact Lauren Schwartz at the Chamber to learn how your company can get involved: (303) 866-9643

Thursday, April 22
3-4:30 p.m. REGISTER HERE