Steamboat Springs A bipartisan bill that passed the Colorado House Monday would provide financial relief to middle-income rural residents with high health insurance premiums.
Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, is co-sponsor of the bill, which aims to help people whose income is between 400 and 500 percent of the federal poverty level and who use more than 15 percent of their income to pay for health insurance premiums.
An individual would be making 400 to 500 percent of the federal poverty level if they earned $48,360 to $60,300 in a year.
A couple would fall between 400 and 500 percent of the FPL if together they earned $65,122 to $81,200 in a year.
The program is open to rural residents living in Colorado's western insurance region (including Routt, Moffat, Jackson, Grand, Rio Blanco, Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and several other counties), eastern insurance region and in Grand Junction.
The bill would help people living in any of the three highest premium areas of the state, including Routt County in the state’s western region.
“This is short-term relief for people who are suffering from pretty extreme inequities between rural and urban Colorado,” Mitsch Bush said in a news release. “We will continue to work on a longer-term solution, but in the meantime, this relief is critical for people in my district who are having to choose between rent and health care.”
Under the bill, which passed the Colorado House 42-22 Monday, people with eligible incomes who use more than 15 percent of their income on health insurance would be eligible for relief stipends beginning July 1.
The current bill includes a set-aside of $5.7 million, which would be available on a first-come, first-served basis, said Mitsch Bush, who sponsored the bill with Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon.
“This is a finite pool of money,” she said. “If you wait, you might not get any stipend.”
Mitsch Bush said many of the people who would be eligible for the money are individuals or couples in their 40s, 50s and early 60s with no children living at home who have higher premiums because of their older age.
Under the federal poverty level guidelines, an individual would be making 400 to 500 percent of FPL if their income was between $48,360 and $60,300, and a couple would fall under the same guideline if their income was between $65,122 and $81,200.
The state’s healthcare exchange would verify a person’s income and calculate their financial relief based on the cost of the lowest-cost available bronze health plan, minus an amount that is 15 percent of the person’s income.
The bill will now move to the Colorado Senate, with Sens. Don Corman, R-Montrose, and Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, acting as sponsors and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, as co-sponsor.
To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow