Ritters signs hospital fee bill
April 21, 2009
DENVER ” Tens of thousands of uninsured patients could get hospital care under a bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Bill Ritter that will allow hospitals to charge provider fees to cover the cost of caring for uninsured patients.
Supporters said the measure will keep health care costs down and reduce the number of people seeking care in emergency rooms.
Ritter said the bill will provide coverage to nearly 100,000 Coloradans and provide some guarantee that hospital care is available to the other 700,000 Coloradans.
“This is the most significant health reform legislation in Colorado in four decades,” said Ritter, who was surrounded by doctors and hospital officials.
Supporters said the Colorado Healthcare Affordability Act will allow the state to collect $600 million a year through a provider fee, allowing the state to get another $600 million in federal Medicaid matching funds.
Ritter said there will be no increased cost to taxpayers, but opponents said no one knows how much the fees would cost or who would pay the estimated $600 million a year.
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Republicans said someone will have to pay, and it will probably be passed on to insurance companies and consumers.
Republicans tried to cap the fees at $2,000 per patient per day, but Democrats refused to impose any cap, saying the state shouldn’t limit the amount of federal money hospitals could receive.
Ritter said many of those issues will be handled by a 13-member oversight committee.
Steven Summer, president of the Colorado Hospital Association, which represents 90 hospitals and health systems across the state, said the new law is a step toward solving the state’s healthcare crisis.
“This new law is not a silver bullet solution to all of our state’s healthcare problems, but it is certainly a giant step forward,” he said.
Russ Johnson, who heads the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center, said the current healthcare system is not sustainable.
“In many rural communities, the hospital is the only healthcare provider,” he said.
The plan still must be approved by the federal government.