Colorado Republicans balk at accepting millions in federal funds to start health insurance exchanges
Republican lawmakers are delaying the state from applying for $22 million in federal funds that would help set up Colorado’s health insurance exchange, the virtual marketplace for insurance that is a key tenet of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress last year.
Republicans say the current application the state has prepared for the federal grant contains language that runs over states’ rights. They have also previously questioned proposed six-figure salaries for some of the health insurance exchange’s staff.
“We just don’t want to have somebody shove stuff down our throats,” said Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, who sits on the Legislative Health Benefit Exchange Implementation Review Committee, a 10-member panel of lawmakers overseeing the creation of the health insurance exchange.
“The way the grant (application) was written, it would obligate us to the federal health care reform law,” he said, pointing to language in the grant application that says the state will “conform to federal requirements” in creating the exchange.
The exchange would allow individuals and small businesses to band together and use an online marketplace to negotiate for coverage and prices the way big companies do. Under the federal health care law, states must create health insurance exchanges by 2014 or the federal government will do it for them.
Senate Bill 200, which lawmakers passed earlier this year, laid the groundwork for the Colorado exchange, creating a board to oversee it and the legislative committee to review creation of the exchange. The legislative panel has an equal 5-5 split among Republicans and Democrats, so with Republicans refusing to consent to the grant application, the state will miss Friday’s deadline to apply for the money…