by Sami Diab, MD, President, Colorado Medical Society
Featured in the May-July 2021 Colorado Medicine Colorado Medicine.
The Colorado Option plan, HB21-1232, has dominated the 2021 legislative session, and for good reason. It is a monumental bill that aims to provide a lower-cost option for health insurance on Colorado’s health insurance exchange. Physicians, as the ones who work all hours of the day and night to care for patients, had to have a voice in shaping the plan and its execution.
Fortunately, the Colorado Medical Society is the highly respected voice of physicians at the Capitol. We have been in discussions on the proposal since 2019, working to protect physicians, your patients and your practices from any negative consequences of the bill and work in good faith to ensure it improves access to affordable, quality and safe health care.
I am thankful to all of the physicians who heeded our calls to action to urge legislators through testimony and personal outreach to remove a mandate for physician participation from the Colorado Option. Neither Medicaid nor Medicare, nor any commercial health plan anywhere in the United States mandates physician participation, and we knew it would be problematic to a healthy and robust physician workforce and access for our patients.
Because of the combined efforts of our members and CMS policy and advocacy team, an amendment to the bill passed in the last week of May that eliminates the physician mandate by removing all enforcement, fines and reporting to regulatory boards for health care providers. CMS worked unceasingly with bill sponsors and the commissioner of the Division of Insurance to negotiate the amendment and, as of press time, the bill is awaiting a vote in the House before heading to the governor.
Importantly, we have committed to working with the Division of Insurance to help educate physicians about the program and how key their voluntary participation will be for patients, while ensuring that their practices remain viable, important parts of the community.
You should feel confident that we have your back as this bill goes through the rule-making process, and we continue to watch out for physicians as other health-care-related bills that will affect the practice of medicine arise this session and in the future. We do think that more work is needed to address the root causes of rising health care costs, such as encouraging better quality and utilizing alternate payment models that focus on patients. CMS will continue to work on these issues so that all Coloradans can get access to the care they need.
The bottom line is CMS works hard on our behalf to ensure the best outcome for our patients and our practices. Your membership makes a difference, adding strength in numbers and opening up opportunities to share your thoughts on how bills affect you and your patients. We need all of your voices. I encourage you to spread the word among any colleagues who are not CMS members. Join us!
Thank you for your commitment to health. Stay well.