Gov. Polis signs landmark health care bills into law at CSU

Gov. Polis signing bill while lawmakers look on

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs a bill designed to save health care consumers money on prescription drugs into law as co-sponsors (from left) Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a registered pharmacist; Sen. Joann Ginal of Fort Collins; and Rep. Robert Rodriguez look on. Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera is at the podium. Photo by Joe Mendoza, CSU Photography.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis traveled to Fort Collins on May 16 to sign a half-dozen bills designed to save Coloradoans money on health care into law. He was joined at the ceremony, held at the CSU Health and Medical Center on the Colorado State University campus, by local bill sponsors Sen. Joann Ginal, Rep. Jeni Arndt, and Rep. Cathy Kipp, as well as Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, who also heads the newly created state Office of Saving People Money on Healthcare.

“These bills will have a huge impact on health care consumers in Colorado,” Polis said, before signing them into law.

The new laws will allow the safe importation of prescription drugs to Colorado from Canada, if the state is granted a waiver from the federal government; require drug manufacturers to disclose prices to prescribing physicians and wholesalers, and offer three generic alternatives; and create a statewide database to store advance medical directives and provide secure access to that information by medical professionals in situations where a patient or a designated guardian cannot communication on the patient’s behalf.

Drugs from Canada

According to Polis, Colorado is the only state to have passed a law allowing drugs to be imported from Canada – Florida is considering a similar measure – but that’s just the first step. The state Office of Health Care Policy and Funding has until 2020 to submit a request for a waiver from the federal Health and Human Services department, which can take until 2021 to respond.

“But there is no good market reason for Coloradans, and all Americans, to be paying more than consumers anywhere else in the world – three to five times for the same medications as Canadians,” he said.

The Colorado Department of Corrections is one of the largest medication purchasers in the state, and Primavera pointed out that this change would mean an annual savings of $3 million on drugs to treat hepatitis C in inmates. “And that’s just one drug,” the four-time cancer survivor added.

Polis said that President Donald Trump has signaled his willingness to support the legislation in Florida, so he is hopeful for the Colorado waiver request. The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Ginal.

Price transparency and advance directives

The drug price transparency law is also the first in the nation, and Primavera said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar is interested in using it as a model for federal rule-making.

“So when you see prices listed on drug ads, you’ll know that came from Colorado,” she said.

Ginal also sponsored the advance medical directive law, which will reduce duplication of paperwork and make patients’ wishes accessible to which medical professional is treating them at the time.

“And this isn’t just something for older people,” she said. “It’s for everyone, 18 and up, who might be unconscious because of a car crash or in some other situation, and if they can’t get hold of a family member, providers have access to your documents anywhere.”

This bill was years in the making, Ginal added, to make sure issues of privacy, accessibility and data security were adequately addressed.

Other bills

Other bills that became law with the governor’s signature on May 16 covered strengthening the authority of the Colorado Insurance Commissioner to monitor the financial health of companies offering policies in the state; reducing the regulatory burden on barbers and cosmetologists by allowing work experience outside the United States to count toward professional hours for licensing; and increasing access to education by including fees for International Baccalaureate programs to fall under the same waivers as Advanced Placement course fees passed by the legislature in 2018.

The IB fee bill was carried by Rep. Kipp, a former member of the Poudre School District Board of Education.