Senate majority leaders head to Craig

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Colorado Senate president Stan Matsunaka, D-Loveland, and Senate President pro tem Ed Perlmutter, D-Wheatridge, will be in Craig from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at The Center of Craig.

The two will discuss a growth bill that is currently before the Senate.

This is one stop on a tour of western slope communities to discuss growth issues.

The goal of the senators is to take the growth issue directly into Colorado communities, providing local officials and residents the opportunity to speak directly to legislators.

Independent Businesses. "The Western Slope is really 'ground zero' on this subject. The bill passed its second reading on Thursday. The third reading on Monday is expected to pass overwhelmingly."

The bill addresses two major factors that affect rural healthcare coverage and the market for it, Jackson said.

The first part deals with the network restrictions on coverage. HB 1374 would allow carriers to offer plans in rural areas without having to have every kind of medical specialist covered.

The plan would allow for the use of treatment providers outside a of a carrier's network, and the carrier would cover "usual or customary charges," while the patient would be responsible for the balance, Jackson said.

"This increases choice in the marketplace, attracting more carriers to rural markets and holding down costs," Jackson said.

The second component would allow insurance companies to fluctuate the rates for small companies based on the health of the owner and employees.

"This problem is not specific to Colorado, but it is compounded in rural areas. Right now in Colorado, there are more uninsured people than insured in the small group market," Jackson said. "The goal of the legislation is to create an attractive market so insurance carriers will return, giving more choice and better prices to small businesses looking for coverage," Jackson said.

If the bill passes the house, it then moves onto the Senate, where opposition is stronger.

The Senate killed a similar bill in February. Concerns over how much a patient could be charged under balanced billing and how rate fluctuations based on health history, could lead to bias against employees and defendants with a history of health problems still remain.

"The network restrictions component I see as being able to pass, but the rate flexibility part doesn't have as good of a chance," Jackson said. "I see this as incremental legislation, building toward a healthier market. It's economically healthier to have more Coloradans insured, for both the patients and providers."

According to Revelle, this legislation could make a big difference.

"We need to foster competition, bring more insurance companies into rural areas to expand coverage and keep rates reasonable," he said.

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