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Hamner and Gibbs: A healthcare crisis in Colorado’s High Country
Over the last few years, the rising cost of health insurance in Summit County has become a crisis for many individuals and families who purchase health insurance on the individual market. Unfortunately, the Colorado Division of Insurance recently reported that we will not see any improvements in 2018. The agency is projecting a potential 37 percent increase in premiums for the Western Region, compared to just 24 percent in the rest of the state.
As elected officials for Summit County, we are acutely aware of the pressing need for a solution to this problem. Over the past three years, we have been working closely with the Governor’s Office, the Division of Insurance and other local and state officials on the Western Slope to find answers.
In 2016, we asked why some residents are forced to pay more simply because of where they live. In other words, why are health insurance rates determined regionally, when other forms of insurance are not? Working with Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), and county commissioners throughout the region, Rep. Hamner passed legislation during the 2016 session that directed the Division of Insurance to study the plausibility of creating a single rating area for the entire state. The study concluded that such a change could lower premiums for the Western Region by 22 percent, but the Division of Insurance ultimately recommended against the creation of a single rating area, citing among other factors that rates on the Front Range would increase.
During the 2017 legislative session, we introduced several pieces of legislation that could have provided some relief to consumers in the Western Region and across rural Colorado. House Bill 17-1235 by Rep. Hamner and former Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs) would have provided emergency assistance to middle-income families and individuals who spend more than 15 percent of their annual income on health insurance. House Bill 17-1237, also by Rep. Hamner, would have allowed local governments to provide health benefits to their employees through the group benefit plans offered to state employees. Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) carried SB17-004, which would have required carriers to offer catastrophic plans to eligible individuals in rural areas.
Unfortunately, all three bills were blocked in the State Senate despite bipartisan backing in both chambers and support from the Governor’s Office. Despite these setbacks, we have developed a series of goals for addressing this issue on the state and local levels as we head into the 2018 legislative session.
For 2018, Reps. Hamner and Rankin plan to introduce legislation to create a single statewide rating region for those purchasing health insurance on the individual market. The bill would also establish cost limits for medical procedures, similar to a model created by the state of Maryland. The intent is to increase equity among insurance rates throughout Colorado while also working to contain costs within the pharmaceutical and medical provider sectors.
Increased transparency and consumer protection is another major goal for 2018, which we hope to achieve by pushing for more transparent and publicly available data that focuses on facilities, pharmaceuticals and providers’ prices. This is data that should be readily available for consumers, and providers should be required to post data that is timely, accessible, consumer-friendly and consistently up-to-date. Making this information public is important so that patients know what they’re getting into and providers can better understand how their rates compare to those of other providers.
At the local level, Commissioner Gibbs is working with large employers, state agencies, health care providers and health insurance carriers to collect more complete and accurate data about how the Summit County population uses medical services. This would increase public access to information about providers and the prices they charge for their services.
As we continue to work on solutions at the state and local levels, and weigh in on proposals at the federal level, it is important that Summit County residents take advantage of existing resources that can help reduce financial strain. Despite the current rhetoric surrounding health insurance, the Affordable Care Act is still in effect and a significant number of people in Summit County who are not enrolled qualify for low-cost plans, tax credits and premium discounts. The Summit County Family and Intercultural Resource Center and the Summit County Human Services Department are valuable resources for any questions you might have on enrollment.
Millie Hamner is Summit County’s state representative. Dan Gibbs is a Summit County commissioner.
Here is a link to the article:
By: State Representative Millie Hamner and County Commissioner Dan Gibbs
Summit Daily News: November 8th, 2017
With regular Education Leadership Council meetings and interim committee work in Denver, a special legislative session, and an extensive district tour, the past month has been extremely busy. I want to thank everyone that came out to visit with me this past month at my events in Paonia, Crested Butte, Frisco, Leadville, and Cedaredge. I will be hosting three more events in Pitkin, Summit, and Lake counties before regular Joint Budget Committee meetings in Denver begin this November. More information on these events can be found below and on my website.
In addition to attending regular meetings with the School Finance Interim Committee and the Wildfire Matters Review Committee, my colleagues and I on the Joint Budget Committee will begin meeting regularly in November as we start the process of developing Colorado’s 2018 budget.
Two weeks ago, the General Assembly was called back to the Capitol for a special legislative session to address a drafting error in Senate Bill 17-267, which passed during the final days of the 2017 session. The unintended consequence of this drafting error will see a host of special district governments lose important marijuana tax revenue that had helped them provide critical services to Coloradans across the state. To my disappointment, a House bill that would have fixed this unintentional error was unable to navigate partisan differences in the Senate Transportation Committee and was lost on a party-line vote. I was joined by a group of Western Slope legislators in submitting a letter that outlines our disapproval of this inaction and describes in greater detail what the ramifications of this loss in funding will be. I have included a link to the full article below.
- Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC’s) local funding is negatively affected by Colorado’s Gallagher Amendment and explosive Front Range growth in property values. Gallagher’s mandatory downward adjustments in statewide tax rates compromises local funding and results in a loss of revenue for CMC, forcing them to eliminate valuable services.
- In 2017, the state was forced to reduce the property tax assessment rate to comply with Gallagher, causing a revenue reduction to CMC of over $2.7 million. It is projected that this level will be lowered again as long as growth in the Front Range continues to outpace growth in the rest of Colorado.
- Measure 4B’s purpose is to prevent future erosion of Colorado Mountain College’s budget by the Gallagher Amendment. It would allow the CMC Board of Trusties to adjust certain mill levies to offset future Gallagher reductions.
- 4B is not a residential property tax. Rather, it enables CMC’s elected board to recover only those revenues lost by CMC due to Gallagher-related adjustments. Residential taxpayers would pay the same level of property taxes as they would have paid prior to a Gallagher adjustment.
- Passing 4B will preserve accessible quality education for future generations – providing affordable tuition, free classes for high school students, and highly qualified training for business owners, employees, teachers, veterans, nurses, police officers, and emergency responders.
For more information, visit www.YESon4B.org
Announcement from the Colorado Dept. of Human Services
CDHS is looking for someone to serve as the Congressional District 2 representative for the Colorado Commission on Aging (CCOA). This Commission was established under the authority of the Older Coloradans Act to serve as the primary advisory body on all matters affecting older persons.
To apply for a position on the Colorado Commission on Aging, visit https://www.colorado.
*The department is looking for someone from CD2 that is of any political affiliation other than Democrat. This requirement is to ensure compliance with a piece of statute that prohibits more than nine members on the commission be affiliated with the same political party.
Upcoming Hamner Events
Legislative Town Hall in Aspen with Local Elected Officials
Tuesday, October 24th from 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Aspen Square Condominium Hotel
617 E Cooper Ave
Aspen, CO 81611
Town Hall on the Future of Higher Education in Colorado
Featuring Dr. Kim Hunter Reed- Exec. Director of the Colorado Dept. of Higher Education
Wednesday, October 25th from 5:00pm to 6:00pm
Colorado Mountain College- Breckenridge Campus
107 Denison Placer Road
Breckenridge, CO 80424
Community Coffee with Mayor Greg Labbe in Leadville
Wednesday, November 1st from 8:30am to 10:00am
Colorado Mountain College Library- Room 317
Leadville, CO 80461
Additional Upcoming Community Events
Public Forum on Individual and Small Group Health Insurance Premiums for 2018
Hosted by the Colorado Division of Insurance
Rising health insurance premiums are among the most pressing issue facing HD61 and rural Colorado. On Thursday, I will be joining local elected officials from throughout House District 61 and fellow state legislators to take part in this important forum. This event is open to the public, and we encourage anyone who is interested to attend. For those unable to attend in person, the event will be streamed via webcast. For more information, visit the event’s webpage. You can also contact my office with any questions at 970-315-2610 or email@example.com.
Colorado Judicial Branch’s Annual Legal Resource Day- Summit County
This public event is being hosted by the Colorado Judicial Branch to offer the public an opportunity to consult with attorneys in various areas of civil law, as well as provide information about local legal and community service resources. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions.
Thursday, October 26th from 8:30am to 5:30pm
Summit County Justice Center
501 North Park Ave
Breckenridge, CO 80424
Click here to view the event flier.
Have a wonderful month!
On Monday, the Western Slope Democratic caucus converged on Denver to join our colleagues at the State Capitol for the first special legislative session held since 2012. The six of us arrived united in our resolve to help correct a mistake that, left unaddressed, will have negative consequences for many hard-working people in rural Colorado.
Governor Hickenlooper called the special session to correct an error in Senate Bill 17-267, which was passed in May during the final days of the 2017 regular session. Our task was to correct a drafting oversight that erroneously eliminated the ability to collect marijuana sales tax revenues for a group of voter-approved special districts, many of which provide critical services to Western Slope communities. All four original bill sponsors acknowledged that this omission was purely a mistake and that the elimination of funding was unintentional.
Two separate pieces of legislation were introduced, either of which would have rectified this omission. Considering the extensive list of supporting organizations from across the state, the strong legal precedent on their constitutionality, and the very real consequences of inaction, a “no” vote seemed illogical and irresponsible. The House version passed with all five West Slope House Democrats and a West Slope House Republican in support. However, much to our collective disappointment, both bills were killed on 3-2 party-line votes in the Senate Transportation Committee. Two of the three Republicans who voted not to fix this error are from the Western Slope.
We entered the State Capitol last week determined to protect our constituents on the Western Slope from losing a valuable source of funding for services that they have approved on the ballot. If this result stands, the loss of funding for these crucial districts in this fiscal year alone could be extensive — $66,000 for the Gunnison Valley Regional Transportation Authority, $87,000 for the Summit Combined Housing Authority, $120,000 for the Roaring Fork Regional Transportation Authority, $10,000 for San Miguel Regional Transportation Authority, and an additional though yet uncalculated loss for the Edwards Metropolitan District.
As elected officials whose districts are wholly or partly west of the Continental Divide, we are extremely disappointed that such an important and easily rectified mistake could succumb to partisan differences on the interpretation of the Colorado constitution — especially when the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, the ultimate authorities on our constitution, have previously ruled that the Legislature has the authority to make such a fix. Though this was an unfortunate display of partisan politics in the state Legislature, we remain steadfast in our commitment to fighting for Western Slope communities and the services our communities need.
Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon
Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango
Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder
Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs
Rep. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara
Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail
With August now behind us and the leaves beginning to change here in the mountains, fall is right around the corner!
As you may know, I was recently appointed to serve on the Education Leadership Council, which Governor Hickenlooper established to examine our state’s education system. This council has been meeting regularly throughout the interim and will continue into the coming session to discuss strategies that can improve the way our state delivers public education to Colorado students. Between my Education Leadership Council work, interim committee meetings at the Capitol, and traveling the district, I continue to keep very busy!
What’s Happening at the Capitol
In addition to attending regular meetings with the School Finance Interim Committee and the Wildfire Matters Review Committee, my colleagues and I on the Joint Budget Committee will be meeting this coming Wednesday for the state’s quarterly revenue forecast. At these quarterly forecasts, we are briefed on the state’s economic outlook by economists from the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting and the General Assembly’s Legislative Council Staff. These are important sessions that allow us to monitor Colorado’s economic situation and begin developing next year’s state budget accordingly. The Joint Budget Committee will begin meeting to develop the 2018-19 budget in November.
Over the next few months, I will be working on my legislative priorities for the coming session, which begins in January. As always, please continue to contact my office regarding any legislation that interests you or provide us with your priorities.
Special Session Called
Yesterday, Governor Hickenlooper called a special legislative session to clarify the language of Senate Bill 267, which was passed last session. As he mentioned in his press conference, this decision came in response to a recently discovered issue within the language of the bill surrounding the allocation of marijuana tax revenue to a group of organizations that includes the Regional Transportation District and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. The General Assembly will convene on October 2nd to consider legislation that will clarify this language and ensure that the original intent of the legislation can be properly codified.
Lake County Democrats Annual Picnic
Saturday, September 16th from 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Leadville National Fish Hatchery
Mountain Harvest Festival
Saturday, September 23rd from 11:00am to 2:00pm
Meet and Greet in Crested Butte
Saturday, September 23rd from 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Rumors Coffee and Tea House on Crested Butte
Colorado Dept. of Human Services Behavioral Health Community Forum- Summit County
September 25th from 11:30am to 1:30pm
Summit County Community and Senior Center
- Hear directly from clients and their families, staffs of facilities and service providers about the needs, successes and opportunities in your area.
- Hold a dialogue with community members to get ideas for next steps, potential legislation and creative solutions.
- Update attendees about what services are available in your community and connect them with the appropriate pathways to such services.
- Further efforts to myth-bust and reduce stigma about what mental illness, substance dependency and other behavioral health issues look like and who is affected.
Applefest in Cedaredge
Sunday, October 8th from 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Town Hall in Aspen
Tuesday, October 24th from 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Aspen Square Hotel
Please feel free to contact my office with any questions at 970-315-2610
With summer beginning to wind down and kids heading back to school, I’m reminded of all the years I’ve spent in a classroom as a student or as a school leader. I wish all of you who are parents, teachers, school leaders or students the very best this coming school year! I also recognize how challenging it is to help our youth make sense of shameful displays of violence and hatred like those that we saw in Charlottesville and Barcelona last week. I applaud our parents and school staff for teaching acceptance and peaceful resolution to conflict, and I hope that our community can come together in the wake of events such as these to foster an environment of peace and tolerance for the betterment of our kids’ future. If I can be of any help to this end, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
This past month, I continued to keep busy with constituent outreach in my district and committee work at the Capitol. At a series of events spread across the district, I talked with constituents and discussed my interim work and the upcoming legislative session, accompanied by my friend and candidate for HD61, Julie McCluskie. I also attended the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) conference, where Jill Biden was the keynote speaker, the Club 20 Summer Policy Committee Meeting, and community events with Conservation Colorado and ONE Colorado.
At the Capitol, things are beginning to pick up as we inch closer to the next legislative session. In addition to my work as chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee, this year I am also serving on the Interim Committee on School Finance, the Wildfire Matters Review Committee, and the Education Leadership Council. These groups will be meeting frequently to work on a diverse array of issues leading up to the 2018 Legislative Session.
On August 9th, four of the bills that I sponsored during the 2017 Legislative Session went into effect! I have included descriptions below.
HB17-1116: Continue Low-income Household Energy Assistance
Reps. Hamner, Exum | Sen. Humenik
Previously, law provides that the Department of Human Services’ Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund, the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund, and the Colorado Energy Office’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund receive conditional funding from the severance tax operational fund through the state fiscal year commencing July 1, 2018. The bill removed the automatic repeal, which means that these funds will be eligible for this conditional funding indefinitely.
SB17-123: Seal of Biliteracy for High School Diplomas
Reps. Hamner, Wilson | Sens. Priola, Zenzinger
This bill authorizes a school district, BOCES, or institute charter high school to grant a diploma endorsement in biliteracy to a student who demonstrates proficiency in English and at least one foreign language. The bill establishes the requirements a graduating high school student must meet to obtain the biliteracy endorsement.
SB17-126: Domestic Violence Review Board
Reps. Hamner and Willet | Senators Guzman and Gardner
This bill created the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board. Which will be tasked with examining data collected by review teams during the preceding year, identifying measures to help prevent domestic violence fatalities and near-death incidents, establishing uniform methods for collecting, analyzing, and storing data relating to domestic violence fatalities and near-death incidents, and making annual reports and policy recommendations concerning domestic violence to the General Assembly.
HB17-1258: Renaming Delta-Montrose Technical College
Reps. Hamner and Willet | Senators Donovan and Coram
This bill changed the name of Delta-Montrose Technical College to Technical College of the Rockies. The change better reflects the school’s broad service area and commitment to providing educational opportunities throughout the Western Slope region beyond Delta and Montrose.
Upcoming Community Events
Lake County School Board Meeting
Tuesday, August 22nd from 6:30pm to 7:30pm
107 Spruce Street, Leadville
2017 Gunnison Democrats Picnic
August 27th at 5:00pm to 7:00pm
Legion Park in Gunnison
2017 Delta County Democrats Picnic
Saturday, September 9th from 11:00am to 12:00pm
Cleveland Park in Delta
Lake County Democrats Picnic
Saturday, September 16th from 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Leadville National Fish Hatchery
Please feel free to contact my office with any questions at 970-315-2610
I hope you have a wonderful month!
I hope that you had a wonderful 4th of July! This past month, I visited the CSU research facility in Hotchkiss that the Joint Budget Committee approved funding for back in March. Stay tuned for exciting developments at this site to support our local growers and agricultural industry.
I was also honored to be a part of the grand opening for the new Silverthorne Performing Arts Center! This beautiful new facility is a terrific example of how important the arts are throughout our mountain communities.
Finally, I want to thank the Town of Breckenridge for including me in the ribbon cutting for the new roundabout on 4 O’clock Rd! This project is a great example of patience on the part of the neighborhoods impacted and collaboration between CDOT and the town.
Aside from traveling the district, I have kept quite busy with my responsibilities at the Capitol. As you may know, my colleagues and I put a significant amount of work into an effort to re-examine the way that we implement our public education system in Colorado. These efforts, which were multiple years in the making, resulted House Bill 17-1287: Achieving a Vision for Education in Colorado. Unfortunately, the Senate Committee on Education was unable to compromise on the bill and it was lost, despite passing the House by a vote of 53-11 (1 excused).
However, all is not lost because our Governor, John Hickenlooper, valued the vision that this bipartisan effort put forth and issued an executive order on June 23rd that implemented a system based on the one outlined in HB1287. I am proud to be involved with this important effort and look forward to the impact it will have on our public education system.
I am serving on two interim committees this summer, the newly formed Interim Committee on School Finance and the Wildfire Matters Review Committee. I look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts on shaping the work of these committees.
Peak 2 Fire:
For my constituents living in Summit County who are affected by the Peak 2 Fire, I have included some information below to direct any inquiries that you may have:
Summit County Emergency Blog:
Upcoming Peak 2 Fire Community Meeting
Wednesday, July 12th from 5:00pm-7:00pm
Colorado Mountain College – Breckenridge
107 Denison Placer Road
Breckenridge, CO 80424
Be safe everyone!!!
Upcoming Community Events
Saturday, July 15th from 12:30pm to 2:00pm
Home of Howie and Betty Wallach
For more information, please contact Howie Wallach at firstname.lastname@example.org or (917) 202-0763
Aspen Times article-Rep. Millie Hamner: Wrapping up the legislative session
Here is the link to the article:
Rep. Millie Hamner: Wrapping up the legislative session
(June 20) – Colorado continues to experience solid economic growth, the state government’s leading economists told the Joint Budget Committee today.
“That Colorado has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and we are experiencing continued economic growth in part thanks to the work we’ve done over the last few years,” said Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, who sits on the JBC. “We’ve worked together to help small businesses grow, to boost our growing tech industry, and to help Coloradans acquire the skills and training they need to get good-paying jobs – and now we’re seeing the rewards.”
May’s unemployment rate in Colorado was just 2.3 percent — the lowest rate in the nation and the lowest in Colorado since at least 1976.
Delivering their quarterly economic and revenue forecasts this morning, the legislature’s chief economist, Natalie Mullis, and Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget director, Henry Sobanet, agreed that the economy is growing but not quite as quickly as forecast in March, meaning there is less revenue than expected for the state’s general fund. This will present challenges in maintaining the required reserve and meeting the needs of key priorities like K-12 schools and transportation.
The other big takeaway is that the budget will not hit the TABOR Ref C cap through the forecast period, FY 2018-2019. This is in large part thanks to the passage of SB17-267, which enterprised the hospital provider fee and provided relief from this additional budget crunch for several years.
“Last session, both sides of the aisle were able to come together, put ideology aside and come to a compromise on the challenging issue of the hospital provider fee,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, the incoming chairwoman of the JBC. “Now we need to carry that bipartisan problem-solving forward and figure out how to sustainably invest in providing the best education for our kids.”
“It’s frustrating that even during years of economic growth, we don’t fund our schools adequately, but fortunately we have a school finance task force that’s going to meet over the next several months to try to create a better way to support our classrooms,” continued Rep. Hamner, a key member of the task force.
The JBC members also highlighted some of the remaining challenges, including a persistent gap between economic growth rates along the Front Range and in other areas of the state, as well as a shortage of affordable housing in many areas of the state.
“Rural areas continue to experience lower job and income growth than communities along the Front Range and that’s a problem we are continuing to look for ways to address,” said Rep. Hamner. “We are committed to making sure families in all four corners of the state have the opportunity to succeed.”
Here is a link to the website: