Colorados health insurance exchange is under fire on a number of fronts, including an expanded audit passing the Senate and failed House attempt to disband the state-run HIX.
These key developments reflect a new balance of power following the midterm elections when state Republicans reversed a razor-thin Democratic edge in Colorados Senate by reclaiming that chamber by just one vote. Democrats, meanwhile, barely maintained their control of the House.
Bipartisan support for deeper scrutiny of Connect For Health Colorado emerged from a recent Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting, with two Democrats joining three Republicans in favor of Senate Bill 05-019, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and Sen. Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge). They abandoned an earlier argument that the state auditor be given authority to conduct a more meaningful performance review would be needless. The Senate unanimously passed the plan, 35-0.
A limited-performance audit in 2014 uncovered $400,000 in questionable costs. Any expanded review would include scrutiny of the HIX websites effectiveness, marketing campaigns and financial sustainability projections. Gary Drews, CFHCs interim CEO, has voiced his support for the audit request, vowing to improve operations and demonstrate transparency.
A second bill requiring approval of bonuses for CFHC employees by the Legislative Health Benefit Exchange Implementation Review Committee, SB 52, narrowly passed the committee, 3-2 vote, and fared better in the full Senate by a vote of 24-11.
It came in response to controversial bonus and salary hikes over the past two years to Patty Fontneau, who stepped down last July as CFHCs CEO to head Cignas private exchange business. She reportedly earned a $14,000 bonus over and above her $191,000 salary last year, in spite of the HIX failing to meet some of its performance goals.
The House is now expected to vote on both pieces of legislation. Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), who heads the House Health, Insurance & Environment Committee, recently predicted that her fellow Democrats would approve both audit measures, which she described as appropriate.
In a related development, her committee was unable to pass a bill that would disband the state-run HIX, altogether a result that was expected. CFHC backers acknowledged that there have been problems, but sought to improve upon the system and not squander a $200 million investment by taxpayers. The House GOP argued that the private market would serve residents better than the public HIX.
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