CO Governor Vetoes Two Health Care Bills

June 6, 2006 ( - Colorado's governor has vetoed two health care bills in the past two months - one that would have required publishing the names of employers whose workers get public health care, and the other requiring insured group health care plans to cover employees' grandchildren in some cases.

Governor Bill Owens called the first bill “well intentioned,” and the other he said was intended to “embarrass and harass employers,” according to his veto messages.

Owens vetoed Senate Bill 06-227 on June 2. Described as “Concerning reporting requirements regarding the payment of health care costs, and making an appropriation therefore,” the bill would make records of employees’ health benefits available to the public upon request.

The bill would require individuals who receive public health care benefits to disclose their employers’ identity to the Department of Labor and Employment, according to the governor’s veto message.

The bill would also require employers with more than 50 employees to report on their employees’ health benefits to the Department of Labor and Employment.

Also, according to Owens’ veto message, the bill would require employers with at least 500 employees who receive public health benefits to submit information to the Department of Labor and Employment regarding the number of benefit-receiving employees, the amount employers spend on employees and the percentage of payroll that the employer spends on employee health care. For every day that the employer does not submit this information, he or she would be fined.

“Not only does this bill threaten existing Colorado jobs by pressuring employers into potentially unaffordable expenditures, SB 227 also would put Colorado at a competitive disadvantage in terms of job creation,” Owens wrote. “Companies would be hesitant to bring family sustaining jobs to Colorado if they knew the state was injecting itself so directly and publicly into their business decisions.”

Owens also wrote that he thinks the bill may violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s Privacy Standard because it could potentially lead to identifying individuals.

House Bill 06-1346, Owens wrote on May 26 in his veto message, may be “well intentioned,” but it could have the “unintended effect of increasing care costs at a time when many Coloradans are already struggling to afford health insurance.”

Owens maintained that the bill, described as “Concerning dependent health care coverage for a minor child of a person eligible for dependent coverage,” would take away the rights of employers to decide which benefits to offer.

“I am concerned that these mandates lessen an employer’s control over benefits and contribute to increase premiums, which directly impact employees,” Owens wrote.

To qualify for the health care coverage described under this bill, the parent of the dependent would be financially responsible for and have the same legal residence as his or her grandchild, Owens wrote.