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House panel OK’s bill giving insurance breaks for wellness programs

Denver Business Journal - by Bob Mook

A measure that would let businesses and individuals get a break in their health insurance premiums for participating in wellness and prevention programs was approved by the Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on Wednesday, by a vote of 9-0.

House Bill 1012, co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton and Amy Stephens, R-Monument, would give small businesses a financial incentive to take part in weight loss, smoking cessation and mental health programs that could ultimately reduce medical costs, underwriters testified during a Wednesday hearing.

The legislation doesn’t allow insurance carriers to give rate cuts on outcomes, such as actually losing weight or successfully kicking a smoking habit, but could potentially allow insurers to reward individuals and organizations that make a sustained effort.

Stephens said the bill could help restore some of the discounts businesses lost since lawmakers approved a measure that prohibited insurers from giving premium discounts for small businesses with healthy workers in 2007.

The legislation, House Bill 1355, has caused some employers to pay up to 40 percent more for their insurance premiums, insurance brokers say.

But those who supported HB 1355 said the practice of “rate banding” unfairly penalized small-group employers with two or more sick workers or family members, who paid considerably more for insurance.

HB 1012 now goes to the House Appropriations Committee for approval.

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