Tuesday, June 3, 2008


AURORA ― Gov. Bill Ritter signed 11 health-care bills into law today, including legislation at the heart of his "Building Blocks to Health Care Reform" plan and measures that provide coverage to thousands of uninsured children. 


"These bills represent a solid foundation for continued progress toward better health care for all Coloradans," Gov. Ritter said during a ceremony at The Children's Hospital. "They extend coverage to thousands of more children, improve mental health benefits, remove red tape, bring greater transparency to our health care system, enhance private insurance coverage, and strengthen our overall public health infrastructure. This was a great legislative session for health care in Colorado."


"Investments made in health prevention and interventions produce long term savings, increase the quality of life and decrease the likelihood of physical, emotional, behavioral and mental health problems," Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien said. "These bills make sense socially and financially and they increase the capacity for children's health and well-being."


Three of the bills are part of Gov. Ritter's Building Blocks to Health Care Reform package and are based on recommendations from the Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform (Senate Bills 135 and 160 and House Bill 1385).


SB 135 (Mitchell/Gagliardi) will streamline health care and make it easier for doctors, nurses and patients to get information from insurance companies. It creates a standardized health plan ID card for patients, using 21st century technology for the electronic exchange of information.


"As a nurse, I know first hand the crazy amount of red tape and paperwork that providers and patients deal with," Rep. Sara Gagliardi said. "We don't need to shuffle paperwork the way we did in 1908. It is 2008 and we can and should get more bang for our health care buck."


SB 160 (Hagedorn/McGihon) will help more uninsured children get the care they need by expanding eligibility for Colorado's Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), to 225 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. It will also improve mental health benefits for kids in CHP+. 


HB 1385 (Primavera/Schwartz) will create an apples-to-apples consumer shopping guide for health insurance on the Colorado Division of Insurance website. It also will bring greater transparency to the commission fees that insurance brokers earn when selling insurance policies.

"Too often, Coloradans are forced to compare apples to oranges to bananas when they are looking at health insurance policies," Rep. Dianne Primavera said. "We are creating transparency in the health care system by requiring insurance brokers to tell customers how much commission they make on each policy they sell."


Gov. Ritter also signed the following health care bills into law:


SB 57 (Kester/Marshall), which requires insurance coverage for hearing aids for children.


SB 138 (Johnson/McGihon), which establishes minimum requirements to be used by a health care/insurance entity when developing a designation (or rating) for a physician.


SB 161 (Boyd/Merrifield), a companion to SB 160, removes administrative barriers to applying for Medicaid and the CHP+.  


SB 194 (Hagedorn/McGihon), directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a comprehensive, statewide public health improvement plan.

SB 217 (Hagedorn/McGihon) directs the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Division of Insurance to work with stakeholders to develop a new "Centennial Care Choices" plan," which would be an insurance product known as a value benefit plan that could provide basic coverage for many citizens.

HB 1100 (Gagliardi/Keller) restores funds to the Colorado Responds to Children with Special Needs Program. This public health plan monitors and prevents birth defects and developmental disabilities.


HB 1372 (Primavera/Hagedorn), creates the Adult Stem Cell Cure Fund consisting of gifts, grants and donations and revenue from a voluntary income tax check-off to support umbilical cord blood collection for public blood banks, public awareness campaigns and administration. "This legislation, to make adult stem cell donations and treatments available, is among the first of its kind in the nation," Rep. Primavera said. "What used to be medical waste is now a medical miracle."


HB 1410 (A. Kerr/Tochtrop) requires most health insurance plans to cover screening tests for colorectal cancer. "This was the most important prevention bill of the year," Rep. Andy Kerr said. "Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer in Colorado, but nearly half of those diagnosed could be saved if they had early screening. With this bill, we will save lives."