Weekly Policy Blog: Governor Polis’ 2023 State of the State Address

Governor Jared Polis gave his 2023 State of the State address to the Colorado General Assembly on Tuesday, January 17th, where he laid out his goals for his second term:

“When Colorado reaches our 150th birthday in 2026, we want to be a place where freedoms are not only protected but expanded, where housing is affordable for every budget, where every kid has access to a quality education, where our water resources support our farms, communities, and industries, where we have lower healthcare costs and taxes, where workers have access to the skills needed to get a good-paying job that supports them and supports the needs of businesses, and every person lives in a safe community.”

CBSA reviewed the Governor’s speech and provides a summary below with key excerpts related to health innovation and healthcare. This address sets the stage for the environment CBSA will be working in as we continue to collaborate with policymakers and partners to promote and champion legislation that would advance Colorado’s health innovation ecosystem and support policies that would make a meaningful impact on patients. See here for more information on CBSA’s Policy Priorities.

Efforts to Reduce Healthcare Costs

Governor Polis highlighted that, “after housing expenses, healthcare costs are often the highest costs that families face,” and pointed to the story of Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera’s experience with breast cancer. He listed the administration’s accomplishments related to healthcare costs and coverage, including how they’ve “reduced costs for healthcare coverage through the bipartisan reinsurance program, the Colorado Option, Omni Salud, and expanded Medicaid and CHIP” as well as how they’ve “saved people money by capping insulin costs, by passing pharma rebates on to consumers, and increasing hospital pricing transparency.”

Continuing Need to Reduce Healthcare Costs

However, Governor Polis emphasized how much work still needs to be done to reduce healthcare costs, as the U.S. spends “nearly twice as much [as] our peers around the world, and our results are no better.” In particular, he underscored how Colorado is “among the top ten states for hospital cost, price, and profit.” Reducing healthcare costs continues to be a top priority for Governor Polis, which he said is needed more urgently than ever.

Saving People Money on Prescriptions

As Governor Polis delved into a more detailed description of his goals around reducing healthcare costs, he said: “First, we have to continue saving people money on their prescriptions. Prescription drug costs take up too much of someone’s personal monthly expenses, with costs rising faster than inflation.” Governor Polis then referenced the Colorado Health Institute’s Colorado Health Access Survey when he said that, in “2021, about 10% of Coloradans were unable to fill a prescription because of cost, leading to bad health outcomes but also higher costs, as it often led to the need for urgent hospital care.”

Capping Drug Costs

Governor Polis highlighted recent legislation capping insulin costs (HB21-1307 Prescription Insulin Pricing And Access and HB19-1216 Reduce Insulin Prices), “the first legislation of its kind in the country,” and, in a potential reference to a similar bill introduced this year that would cap costs for epinephrine auto-injectors (HB23-1002 Epinephrine Auto-injectors), said, “and there is more we can and must do. By saving people money on prescriptions, we can prevent the rationing of medication that leads to worse health outcomes and higher healthcare costs.”

Strengthening the Prescription Drug Affordability Board

Governor Polis then underscored the administration’s ongoing work related to two recently-passed bills: SB19-005 Import Prescription Drugs From Canada and SB21-175 Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board. He said that, “in addition to our efforts to import lower-cost drugs from Canada, we’ll be working…to strengthen the Prescription Drug Affordability Board so we can continue making progress to save people money on life-saving medications.”

Holding “Middlemen” Accountable

Finally, Governor Polis acknowledged other players’ contributions to drug costs when he ended his focus on drugs by saying: “Like your prescription drug rebate legislation last year [HB22-1370 Coverage Requirements For Health-care Products], we will also continue to hold middlemen accountable for cutting the cost of prescription drugs so employers can pass savings to consumers and reduce premiums.”

Holding Health Insurers Accountable

Governor Polis then turned his attention to the roles health insurers and hospitals play in healthcare costs. He emphasized: “Insurers need to step up to lower costs and improve outcomes in the state of Colorado,” particularly since “[s]ome health insurers continue to profit from Coloradans while administrative costs, unrelated to patient care, continue soaring.”

Holding Hospitals Accountable

Governor Polis concluded his spotlights on contributors to healthcare costs by directing his attention to hospitals. He highlighted how “some large hospital systems are making record profits, paying zero taxes, and sitting on enormous reserves derived from overcharging customers. Meanwhile, they are consolidating providers, which drives up costs and leaves fewer options for our fellow Coloradans.” Polis said, “It’s time that we hold them accountable” by ensuring that hospitals “stop overcharging patients” and “ensuring that nonprofit hospitals actually use community benefit dollars for community benefit.”

Supporting the Reinsurance Program

Governor Polis ended his remarks related to healthcare costs by pointing to one of his oft-cited accomplishments: “We can and should support the great work of the bipartisan reinsurance program, created by Speaker McCluskie and Senator Janice Rich, to deliver even more savings to consumers through lower insurance premiums for people on the exchange.”

CBSA’s Advocacy Efforts

CBSA will continue to navigate this challenging landscape and be at the forefront of efforts to support a collaborative, pro-innovation environment for life sciences in Colorado that will help advance the state as a leading life sciences hub.

To get involved with CBSA’s advocacy efforts or talk about your concerns, perspective, or position on a bill, please contact CBSA’s Vice President and Counsel for Policy + Advocacy, Amy Goodman.

Official text of Governor Polis’ 2023 State of the State address as prepared for delivery

The Colorado Sun’s transcript of Governor Polis’ 2023 State of the State address

Categories: CBSA News