Guest column

Health care, transportation on front burner for Legislature

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The Colorado legislative session this spring will prominently focus on health care and transportation infrastructure.

In our 2017 system for health care, the Obamacare burden continues to hold back Coloradans. Individual insurance rates in Colorado have increased by more than 20 percent, and nearly a third of our counties have only one insurance carrier option left on the state exchange.

I have taken the lead as your state senator for District 4 (Castle Rock, Parker, Castle Pines, Larkspur, Franktown) on repealing the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange. I am sponsoring Senate Bill 17-003 "Repeal of Colorado Health Benefit Exchange Act" with House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who resides in Castle Rock.

It is evident our "state-based" exchange is not working and needs to be replaced with a system that treats all Colorado residents fairly and alleviates the burden on the taxpayers in our state.

In 2010, the "Colorado Health Benefit Exchange Act" was created to allow state residents and small businesses to purchase private health insurance, potentially with a subsidy, from a state website: ConnectforHealthCO.com.

Several years later, as more and more insurance companies continue to drop out of this failing exchange, our prices continue to soar and consumers are still stuck with plans that restrict physician selection.

Additionally, Connect For Health was recently accused of having misspent almost $10 million in taxpayer funds - much of it for social activities and executive bonuses (source: www.krdo.com/news/top-stories/connect-for-health-colorado-asked-to-repay-nearly-10-million/248099667).

My bill would not eliminate Obamacare in Colorado, but it would save Colorado taxpayers millions of dollars by transitioning the purchasing of Obamacare plans from ConnectforHealthCO.com to the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov.

States that have repealed their exchange in a similar matter have already seen positive results. In Nevada, the market expanded and two new insurance companies have already start selling insurance. (source: www.reviewjournal.com/life/health/2-more-providers-agree-participate-nevada-s-health-insurance-exchange)

Kentucky did the same, and 74,000 Kentuckians signed up for health care coverage within two weeks of shutting down its state's health exchange. (source: www.paducahsun.com/news/kentucky/BC-KY--Health-Overhaul-Kentucky--2024202)

It is time we learn from other states and give Coloradans a break.

The other big issue we will be reviewing this session is transportation infrastructure. We Coloradans are tired of watching our roads and bridges crumble as a significant portion of our state government's general fund remains allocated to other budget items.

Earlier this month, Senate President Kevin Grantham addressed the issue of infrastructure on our first day of session, saying: "... one of the most ominous issues facing us today that resonates with both sides of the aisle and to our constituents in all 35 Senate districts is the problem of the deteriorating condition of our transportation infrastructure and funding to significantly address the problem."

Grantham continued, "our current road and highway infrastructure needs exceed $9 billion, including $3.5 billion in shovel-ready projects on the priority list awaiting funding."

All Coloradans use our roads and highways, and it is imperative for us to resolve this issue now.

This is not a partisan issue, and I look forward to working with my Democratic colleagues on finding a solution.

As we continue to work through these issues, I want to keep an open line of communication to anyone who would like to raise concerns, ask questions, or provide their input. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me anytime at 303-866-4869 or by email: senatorsmallwood@gmail.com.

Parker resident Jim Smallwood is a Republican state senator from District 4, which includes most of Douglas County.

Jim Smallwood

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