DENVER — Gov. Bill Ritter signed four bills he promised will rein in skyrocketing health care costs on Tuesday and appointed a director who will oversee 10 state agencies to implement the Obama administration's new health care plan.
Ritter said Colorado is ready to act on national plans to allow young people to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, bar denying coverage to children for pre-existing conditions, and provide tax credits to small businesses to cover premiums. The changes will all go into effect in the next six months.
He said other national programs that bar health insurance companies from discriminating against adults with pre-existing conditions and provide tax credits for families to offset the cost of insurance premiums won't go into effect until 2014, which means it could take years for the reforms to take effect and reduce insurance costs.
"Colorado has never waited for Washington on health care reform, and we aren't about to start waiting now," Ritter said.
The governor named Lorez Meinhold, his health policy analyst, to be his director of national reform. Meinhold will oversee 10 agencies and departments, including Health Care Policy and Financing, the state's chief medical officer, the Department of Human Services, the insurance commissioner, the Department of Revenue, his budget office and legal counsel.
"We have an opportunity in Colorado and this country to change health care and we are one of the first states stepping up," said Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada.
Toby Serrano told Ritter he's counting on Obama's reforms to help his 15-year-old daughter, who was left without health insurance when he lost his job. His daughter suffers from a brain disorder, which makes it difficult for her to get even basic care.
"Does my daughter deserve this? Of course she deserves health care," he told the governor and dozens of doctors, health care professionals and doctors at a bill signing ceremony at Denver Health Medical Center.
The Obama administration says its plan will extends health coverage to 32 million people who are uninsured. While some aspects of the plan go into effect this year, the president has said it could take four years for the plan to produce results.
The federal legislation cracks down on unpopular insurance industry practices, such as denying coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Under the plan, most Americans would also be required to buy insurance for the first time or face penalties if they refuse.