Colorado Legislators May Push HPF Through Constitutional Loophole
The House Committee on Appropriations voted 7–6 on March 29 to refer House Bill 1420, sponsored by House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder County) and Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa County), to the Committee of the Whole.
HB 1420 would establish the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise (CHASE) as a government-owned business to administer the state’s HPF. HPF is the vehicle by which Colorado expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 and by which the state collected almost $700 million in revenue the following year.
CHASE’s designation as an “enterprise” would exempt the program from the state constitution’s TABOR, which mandates voters shall decide at the ballot whether Colorado must refund to taxpayers surplus revenue collected by the state, except when the surplus comes from a state “enterprise.”
If passed, CHASE will take effect on July 1, 2016, provided the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determine the program complies with federal law, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Linda Gorman, director of the Health Care Policy Center at the Independence Institute, says the bill manipulates the meaning of “enterprise” in order to circumvent the state’s constitution.