Health Law and Policy Update
Headlines of the week
President moves federal health insurance reform forward
President Barack Obama on Wednesday reiterated his argument that Congress should allow an "up-or-down vote" on health insurance reform. The emerging consensus plan is for the House of Representatives to pass the Senate bill. Then a package of changes that mirror the president's revised reform proposal would go through both chambers under reconciliation rules, which require 51 votes in the Senate and 216 in the House for passage. There is hope the entire package can be revised and delivered to the president for signature before Easter recess begins March 29. Contrary to arguments from some opponents of health reform, reconciliation is a well-established process by which to enact a major policy shift, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Activists getting re-engaged
"In the lead-up to getting a consensus bill, the role of the advocacy group has proven crucial here," said a House leadership aide. "We have to keep a loud and sustained drumbeat in the coming days of why we need this bill. This week is an important week for moving forward, and we need their voices out there until we have a consensus bill."
Hospitals' new operating arrangement threatens patient rights
Three Denver-area hospitals that collectively serve hundreds of thousands of people are operating under rules that preclude a range of widely accepted medical procedures. The procedures, such as contraception and honoring patients' end-of-life orders, are banned or put into question under a document called Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Colorado Center on Law and Policy released an issue brief this week detailing the background.
Proposed changes to the Old Age Pension fund
Old Age Pension (OAP) is a state-funded program that provides financial assistance to low-income Colorado residents who are older than 60. To qualify for OAP, an applicant must be a resident of Colorado, a citizen or legal resident of the United States, and meet income and resource limits. OAP was created by a 1936 amendment to the Colorado Constitution and was amended in 1956 to create the OAP Health and Medical program. OAP recipients can receive up to $699 per month in financial assistance, as well as a limited medical benefit or Medicaid depending on the circumstances.
House Bill 10-1353 proposes changes to OAP eligibility for legal immigrants that are expected to generate a savings of $14 million in 2011 and reduce or eliminate OAP benefits for more than 4,400 recipients. The proposal could create a significant hardship for many current legal immigrant old age pensioners by taking away financial assistance and health and medical benefits that they have been rightly granted under Colorado law.
The Colorado Center on Law and Policy produced an issue brief this week offering details.
Plain language helps consumers be better informed
The Colorado Center on Law and Policy supports House Bill 10-1166, otherwise known as the plain language bill. The bill requires all insurance policies sold in Colorado to be presented at a 10th grade reading level. The "Use of Plain Language in Insurance Policies" bill will cut down on confusion by policyholders and help the industry provide meaningful information to consumers buying their products.
The Boulder Daily Camera called the reform "easy to support."
House Bill 10-1353, the bill changing eligibility requirements for Old Age Pension, is scheduled for a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on Friday, March 5 at 7:30 a.m.
Advancing the debate
Health insurers falsely claim rising costs justify premium increases
Health Care for America Now analyzed whether rising medical costs justify continued double-digit premium increases. From 2000 to 2008, insurance premiums went up 97 percent for families and 90 percent for individuals, the advocacy group found. During the same time period, payments to providers like hospitals and doctors went up only 72 percent. Even worse, underlying medical inflation, calculated from the Consumer Price Index, went up only 39 percent. In short, during the past eight years premiums almost doubled, but medical inflation went up only 40 percent. Premiums rose two times faster, and more than three times faster than wages, which rose only 29 percent during the same time period.
The Kaiser Family Foundation maintains a side-by-side analysis of health reform proposals, now updated to include the president's proposal.
What you can do
Contact members of Colorado's delegation in Congress to urge them to pass comprehensive health care reform.
Contact your state representatives to express support for House Bill 10-1156.
Contact your state representatives to express opposition to House Bill 10-1353.
Don't know who your representatives are? Find out at Project Vote Smart.
Let us know what you think of the update. Contact CCLP's communications director, Perry Swanson. We're eager for ideas on making it more useful.
Health Care Director
Health Care Attorney
Released March 4, 2010