Capitol Conversation: On the State's Healthcare Exchange

Feb 13, 2017

A proposal to repeal Colorado's healthcare exchange and move to the federal program has prompted a lot of debate at the State Capitol. It has also set off a larger fight about the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Here are highlights from our discussion with John Frank, a reporter for The Denver Post, and Ed Sealover, a reporter for The Denver Business Journal. They discuss Senate Bill 3, which seeks to repeal Connect for Health Colorado.

On why the cost savings of switching from a state to federal exchange are unclear:

Frank: That argument is slowly being eroded the more we learn. For instance, when Nevada gave up their exchange, Connect for Health folks report that it cost $23 million to end that state exchange and connect to the federal exchange. That kind of undercuts the cost argument according to critics. So we're seeing lots of debate about the cost of this, and of course half of this is getting wrapped up into the national politics too, which makes it even more difficult.

On why the debate is turning into a discussion about health care nationally:

Sealover: Well it's really hard to separate it from what's happening nationally when there's such an uncertainty about what is going to happen to the federal exchanges, are they going to simply disappear? Are they going to be replaced by tax credits?

On why the state exchange could exist even if Obamacare is repealed:

Frank: The exchange right now is planning for its future regardless of whether they repeal Obamacare. It sees an opportunity to serve as a regional portal, a regional hub for a number of states where residents in those states can go to this website to buy insurance. I kind of like to think of it like a lendingtree.com, a place where you can shop for exchange plans, insurance plans. But yes it entirely depends on what they do in Washington and whether that would even be possible.

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.