Legislators in Colorado have approved of a $18 million grant from the federal government that will help the state build its own health insurance exchange in a 9-1 vote late last week. The money will be used to fund the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, which aims to provide a virtual marketplace where consumers can find affordable insurance products. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved of the building of an exchange and assigned a group of legislators to oversee the exchange and determine the benefits it would bring to the state’s insurance industry.
Originally, the state had applied for a $22 million grant, but the application missed the deadline due to legislative gridlock. The most recent grant proposal won support from both Democrats and Republicans because it called for more flexibility in how the funds were spent on the exchange. Legislators have been showing more aggression in implementing an insurance exchange because of the prospect of the federal government stepping in and setting one up itself.
Lawmakers still have a lot of work to do, especially in the realm of risk-adjustments and fair insurance policies for people with chronic illnesses, but the Legislature is hopeful that the new exchange program will be running and sustainable by the federal deadline of 2014. Depending upon how the health care reform law holds up to the Supreme Court, the exchange may be a major boon to consumers in the state.