DENVER (AP) — A Colorado nonprofit group whose members include insurance companies and hospitals has launched a $1 million TV ad campaign opposing a public health insurance option plan being developed by Democrats in the Legislature.
The Colorado Sun reports that the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future is airing ads in Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction. The spending figure doesn't include digital ads.
Lawmakers drafting legislation say they want to give insurers until 2023 to offer plans on the individual market with premiums that cost 10% less than this year — and 20% less in 2024. Democratic Rep. Dylan Roberts says that under the legislation, which has yet to be introduced, the state would intervene if insurers can’t meet those goals.
Colorado Politics first reported on the draft legislation on Tuesday.
The legislation also would require at least two insurers to offer plans in each ZIP code in 2024.
The Partnership for America's Health Care Future and a subsidiary, Colorado’s Health Care Future, lobbied against a public option proposal last year before it was abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Sun reports it spent roughly $5 million on advertising, lobbying and other expenses between July 2019 and June 2020.
Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, has long advocated for a public option with the goals of reducing health insurance costs and expanding its availability, especially in mountain and rural areas.
A state health department report released last year said Colorado hospitals’ per-patient profits reached their highest levels in a decade in 2018. Hospitals earned an average per-patient profit of $1,518 in 2018, compared to $538 in 2009, according to the report. The department insisted that inflation and expenses alone didn’t explain the increase.
Hospital associations insist profits aren’t excessive and warn that state intervention could put undue financial pressure on hospital facilities, especially in rural areas where hospitals have slim operating margins. The industry also argues hospitals rely on profits to replace aging equipment, reduce debt and sustain services at a time when the pandemic has imposed severe budgetary pressures on health care facilities.
The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future's members include the American Hospital Association, the Colorado Business Roundtable, the Farm Bureau of Colorado, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and private health insurance carriers.
Another nonprofit group, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, has spent nearly $31,000 this fiscal year to support public option legislation but, according to deputy director Adam Fox, is financially outgunned by the Partnership group. Fox said that “there is simply no way financially that we are going to compete with what they are spending on this proposal.”
Roberts, who is working with Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan on the legislation, warned his constituents in an email last week about a pending ad blitz.
“Your airwaves, mailboxes, and computer screens are about to be bombarded by a multimillion dollar ad campaign seeking to spread misinformation about this bill,” Roberts wrote. “They will rely on made-up data and ‘facts’ that have nothing to do with this year’s bill in order to distract you from what is actually going on. Don’t fall for it.”