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People gather for information during a Planned Parenthood Affordable Care Act outreach event for the Latino community in Los Angeles, California September 28, 2013. Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, begins next week on October 1. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH SOCIETY) - RTR3FE62 People gather for information during a Planned Parenthood Affordable Care Act outreach event for the Latino community in Los Angeles, California September 28, 2013. Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, begins next week on October 1. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH SOCIETY) - RTR3FE62  

Colorado To Spend $400k Figuring Out Why Health Care Is So Expensive

The Colorado Senate passed a bipartisan bill  that would set up a commission of experts to examine why health care costs and access to medical services haven’t improved under the state’s Obamacare exchange.

The commission will cost approximately $400,000, according to the bill.

Colorado is home to the most expensive health care regions in the country, the mountain counties around Aspen and Vail, where average insurance premiums are $483, according to Kaiser Health News. And the average premium statewide, according to the exchange’s 2013 annual report, was $376 — much higher than the $283 average estimated by exchange staffers in August.

A Connect for Health Colorado spokesman did not reply to an email seeking more updated figures.

“It’s very apparent to me, and it’s not a surprise to me, that the costs of health care have not gone down,” bill co-sponsor Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts told the Colorado Observer.

She told the website that the commission wouldn’t solve all of the problems with the exchange, which enrolled 124,000 people from October to March 31 and which has come under critical scrutiny for how it has spent its money.

Exchange CEO Patty Fontneau, who first raised eyebrows by requesting a raise and a bonus when the exchange was performing dismally in its early days, is requesting fee increases or a blanket fee on all insured Coloradans to keep the exchange afloat.

But Democrats killed a bill that would have authorized an expanded audit on the exchange, with committee chairwoman Sen. Irene Aguilar saying she was “exceedingly impressed” with its transparency.

Aguilar co-sponsored the bill to set up the expert commission on health care reform.

“This is not affordable health care,” Republican Rep. Kevin Lundberg told the Colorado Observer. “People cannot afford to go to the doctor, let alone to the hospital. You can’t afford to get sick.”

If the bill passes the state House and is signed into law, the commission will report back to the legislature with its findings in July 2017.

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