Governor to Sign Health Exchange Bill

By Patrick Malone, The Pueblo Chieftain

DENVER Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign a bill into law today that will set the course for establishing health insurance exchanges in Colorado.

Hickenlooper is scheduled to hold a signing ceremony for SB200 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lakewood.

The bill would establish an online insurance marketplace enabling small businesses and individuals to unite and negotiate features of their health coverage as well as premium prices.

Federal health care reforms passed last year require each state to establish a health insurance exchange by 2014 or the federal government will step in and set them up. That aspect of SB200 sparked outrage among some conservatives over its bipartisan sponsorship.

The same Tea Party faction that labeled the federal health care overhaul Obamacare tagged SB200 Amycare, a reference to House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, who carried the legislation along with Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Westminster.

Stephens initially caved to the criticism by getting behind an amendment that would have required the governor to seek a waiver from the federal government to opt out of the federal health reforms.

But a backlash from the business community, which overwhelmingly supported SB200, prompted Stephens to back away from the amendment, which was not attached to the bill in its finished form.

Chambers of commerce throughout the state and other business organizations embraced the concept of health insurance exchanges because they contend individuals and small businesses will be able to obtain more affordable health care coverage much like large businesses have been able to traditionally leverage.

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