Rural health care relief bill that could aid Roaring Fork Valley residents advances to state Senate | PostIndependent.com

Rural health care relief bill that could aid Roaring Fork Valley residents advances to state Senate

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

A bill that would provide relief for some Coloradans on health insurance premiums stands a good chance of gaining bipartisan support in the state Senate in coming weeks after passing the state House on Monday, according to a prime sponsor.

Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, said the two prime sponsors of H.B. 17-1235 in the Senate are two Republicans, so she is hopeful their influence can earn a path to approval. The Republicans control the Senate by a narrow margin.

The bill passed the House by a 42-22 vote.

"It had pretty good bipartisan support," Mitsch Bush said.

She called it a "crucial" bill for her district, which includes El Jebel and most of Basalt. Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, whose district includes Pitkin County, was another prime sponsor in the House.

The bill creates a temporary financial relief program that would be available from July 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2018. The fund would provide financial assistance to individuals and families who live in one of the three regions of the state with the highest premiums, who have incomes between 400 and 500 percent of the federal poverty level, and spend more than 15 percent of their household income on individual health insurance premiums. The Central Mountains are one of the regions that fit the criteria.

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Separate legislation would set aside $5.7 million for the bill.

"This is short-term relief for people who are suffering from pretty extreme inequities between rural and urban Colorado," Mitsch Bush said in a statement. "We will continue to work on a longer term solution, but in the meantime, this relief is critical for people in my district who are having to choose between rent and health care."

Hamner noted that some residents of her district are paying up to four times as much for the same insurance policy as families on the Front Range. They cannot afford the hit, she said.

"This is a critical emergency, and we have a responsibility to respond and help these Coloradans," Hamner said.

Mitsch Bush said two Republican senators whose districts would be eligible for the emergency assistance are prime sponsors of the bill. They are Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa. In addition, Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, who represents Pitkin and Eagle counties, is a co-sponsor.

The bill was not assigned to a Senate committee as of mid-afternoon Tuesday. Mitsch Bush said Monday night that she is hopeful the senate will take action during the waning weeks of this session.

Mitsch Bush and Hamner will be in Basalt Saturday to provide legislative updates.

scondon@aspentimes.com

if you go

What: Town Hall meeting

Who: State Reps. Diane Mitsch Bush and Millie Hamner

Where: Basalt Library

When: Saturday at 11 a.m.

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