06/02/2011 06:19 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2011

Governor John Hickenlooper Signs Bipartisan Health Benefits Exchange

Yesterday Governor John Hickenlooper signed the Health Benefits Exchange Bill into law, making Colorado one of just seven states to have a voluntary insurance pool, and the only bipartisan exchange bill in the country.

In a press release Gov. Hickenlooper said:

This legislation moves Colorado forward with one voice. The health exchange will allow individuals and small businesses to choose among easy-to-compare affordable health care options. It will give Coloradans more control, quality choices and better protections when buying insurance. We are grateful to the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Betty Boyd and Rep. Amy Stephens, and various interest groups for working through partisan politics to do what’s right for all of Colorado.

The Health Benefits Exchange Bill, SB 200, appoints an executive director to oversee the non-profit exchange that will allow individuals and small businesses to group together to attain more affordable coverage.

In March of 2011, Colorado and Wyoming State Director Tony Gagliardi of the National Federation of Independent Business gave his support of SB 200 though opposing the federal health care legislation because of their concern that it would drive up costs for small businesses.

"It was a choice whether Colorado should take the bull by the horns, take the lead and establish our own health benefit exchange unique to Colorado and our needs, and not rely on a one-size-fits-all federal program," Gagliardi said in a statement after the bill's signing. "That an Exchange was part of ObamaCare that we are seeking to overturn was no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water."

Colorado's Tea Party groups however still consider the bill "ObamaCare" and even dubbed it "AmyCare," though Stephens is a republican representative from El Paso County.

In an article in Health Policy Solutions, a project of the Buechner Institute for Governance at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, Rep. Stephens responded that she didn't want the discussion to "denigrate into a Tea Party discussion."

"Some may want to use ['AmyCare'] derogatorily. I will wear it. I care about small business and the market. Amy cares," she said.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data on Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE), over 787,000 Coloradans under the age of 65 were uninsured in 2007. That was over 17 percent of the population.