By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4)– Gov. John Hickenlooper and his Republican counterpart, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, fired off a letter to Congress outlining their ideas to stabilize the individual health insurance market.
“I think time is of the essence,” Hickenlooper said at a press conference.
In Colorado, 14 counties have one insurer left and premiums will increase by almost 30 percent next year.
Recommendations in the letter include offering insurers in those counties a tax break and allowing people who live there to buy the same insurance federal employees do.
“We’re not trying to start a revolution here,” Hickenlooper said, “These are cautious, pragmatic efforts.”
Some of the ideas were in bills floated by republicans in Congress, including making it easier for states to get waivers from some provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Other ideas, like continuing to mandate everyone buy insurance or pay a penalty, were not.
The governors also want to make it difficult for people to buy insurance when sick then drop it, increasing premiums for everyone.
“Analogous to people being able to buy fire insurance when their house is on fire or buy car insurance right after they get into an accident,” says Sen. Jim Smallwood, a Republican who represents Douglas County .
Smallwood has warned the state Legislature for months that Colorado’s exchange could collapse. He says the governors’ ideas may help stabilize the market, but he wants more details. So does U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican.
But, Coffman agrees with the governors’ on one point, “I think we owe it to the American people to stabilize the market. It’s the worst part of health care in terms of rising rates.”
Hickenlooper hopes that he and Kasich’s letter will be a model for bi-partisanship, “I know it’s almost sacrilegious to say that Democrat and Republican ideas come together to make something better but that’s the way things used to happen in this country.”
He and Kasich also recommend Congress create websites allowing people to compare health care costs and continue subsidies to help low income people afford insurance.
Colorado’s Republican Sen. Cory Gardner says he wants more specific policy details – the letter more bullet points – but says he’s ready and willing to work with anyone serious about reform.