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Colorado governor vetoes bill that sought to reduce prescription opioid abuse

Gov. Jared Polis wrote in a letter that he vetoed House Bill 1085 because of the impact it would have on health insurance premiums

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters at the governor's mansion in downtown Denver on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday vetoed a bill that sought to reduce opioid abuse in Colorado because it would have increased the cost of health insurance.

Provisions in House Bill 1085 requiring insurance carriers to cover at least six annual physical therapy visits, six annual acupuncture visits, six annual occupational therapy visits, and six annual chiropractic visits would add up to $38 million to the cost of premiums, he said.

Polis warned lawmakers after the coronavirus crisis began that he was unwilling to sign legislation into law that would raise health insurance premiums.

“Given our current fiscal situation, Colorado is sadly not in a position to absorb increased costs of private health insurance,” Polis, a Democrat, wrote in a letter explaining his veto decision.

MORE: Read Gov. Jared Polis veto letter.

The bill had bipartisan support.

It also would have continued indefinitely a state ban on prescribing more than a seven-day supply of opioids to patients who have not had an opioid prescription in the past year. The ban is set to expire on Sept. 1, 2021.

The measure would have also indefinitely extended a requirement that doctors check a state database before prescribing opioids. That requirement also is set to expire on Sept. 1, 2021.

“It’s disappointing when we know we have an opioid crisis in Colorado and due to the budget crisis we actually took some steps backward,” said state Sen. Faith Winter, a Westminster Democrat who sponsored the bill. “This is one of things we could have done to help the situation.”

She was referring to reports that the opioid crisis could worsen during the pandemic.

MORE: We’re dealing with a pandemic, but remember the opioid crisis? Coronavirus is likely to make it worse.

“We had data that in the long run it saved money,” Winter said of the bill.

The governor said he is willing to work with the bill sponsors on similar legislation in the future and that he hopes that policy will better examine the cost impacts on insurance carriers.

“I recognize this bill is the result of a great deal of work, and indeed, I agree with the underlying premise of the legislation: we must do more to elevate alternative pain management treatments to reduce the use of opioids,” Polis wrote in his veto letter.

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