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Tuesday morning Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed what many are calling a ground-breaking health care bill into law, ending a  years-long fight to lower health insurance costs across the state. The effort was championed by Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail. It was one of a what has been called “a slew of bills” coming out of the hyperactive 2021 Colorado legislative session.

Gov Polis has been busy the past two weeks signing landmark legislation into law, including the new Colorado Health Care bill. Photo by Chris Dillmann for the Vail Daily.

The signing of two health insurance bills, including one known as “Colorado Option”, took place on Tuesday, June 15 on the steps of the Colorado Capitol building. Beginning in 2023, insurers will be required to reduce premiums by a total of 15 percent over three years.

From the outset, the effort sought to lower the costs of health insurance premiums and create more choices for those purchasing individual or small-market group plans; determined to be especially important to rural counties and small towns. Until now, ten of Colorado’s 64 counties offer only one health insurance option on the individual market, a significant lack of choice for Colorado residents.

“That’s the No. 1 issue I hear from people in Eagle county is ’my insurance premium keeps going up, and I can’t shop for anything else,” said Roberts, speaking to The Vail Daily just after the bill passed through a final vote in the State House on June 7. “I just either have to buy what’s offered or go without insurance,’ and too many people were going without insurance.”

The new law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, gives the state insurance commissioner the power to direct hospitals and health care providers to offer more health insurance options. Supporters say that it will impact about 15 percent of Colorado’s insurance market, expanding health care affordability including coverage for underserved markets. It replaced an earlier version of what became known (often in a derogatory tone) as the “public option”.

The bill is not without its critics, many of whom say it could force physicians and specialists to leave the state.

During the same signing ceremony, Polis also signed into law a bill to create a prescription drug affordability board. That board will be responsible for reviewing and setting prescription drug price ceilings.

This story includes information provided by reporters from the Associated Press and The Vail Daily, both of which covered the signing in person.