The 2022 legislative session is expected to begin on Jan. 12. With many fingers crossed toward avoiding any COVID disruptions to this year’s schedule, the legislature should adjourn on May 11. Some anticipated key considerations for the 2022 legislative session include:
- Healthcare – In 2022, we expect to see bills addressing insurance billing, including changes to out-of-network billing policies to align with federal law, attempts to regulate cost sharing ministry plans and actuarial analysis requirements for new insurance mandates. There may also be an effort to streamline prior authorizations and require plans to honor provider networks for the full plan year, as well as efforts to increase coverage for undocumented Coloradans. A bill to reauthorize and increase funding for rural preceptors (including dentists) is expected. There may be a bill to increase protections for healthcare workers who experience harassment, along with some scope of practice bills (physicians assistants, mental health providers). An anticipated bill would implement new continuing education for mandatory reporters of physical and sexual abuse (dentists and dental hygienists are mandatory reporters). Changes may be pursued to workers compensation direct access policies for certain providers (last year’s bill would have restricted direct access to dentists). An effort to protect medical offices (and businesses generally) from excessive liability related to mass shooting events may also be pursued. Finally, changes are expected to the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) in 2022 due to an audit conducted by the state. The drafted bill includes a requirement that providers (including dentists) check the PDMP on the first fill of any opioid (currently the check is required only for the second fill). There is significant initial discussion in the healthcare provider community that this would only be feasible if the PDMP portal was fully integrated into all provider EHR systems.
- Dental Initiatives – A bill draft to authorize dental therapists in Colorado was recently shared with the CDA. Bill sponsors are Sen. Dominick Moreno (Democrat, Commerce City) and Rep. Monica Duran (Democrat, Wheat Ridge). The CDA has been anticipating this effort for many years, and is partnering with many in the oral health community to respond to the bill draft. The CDA recently partnered with a respected health policy firm, the Wynne Health Group, to issue a report on oral health status and innovation in Colorado along with a review of state mid-level provider models. This report should be very useful in helping to evaluate and respond to the dental therapist bill being proposed in Colorado. Additionally, there has been some conversation about expanding the Medicaid adult dental benefit to ensure an appropriate response to pandemic disruptions (whether through an increase to patients’ annual max or some targeted rate adjustments).
- Election – November 2022 is a mid-term (non-Presidential) election. A significant number of candidates, from congressional, to gubernatorial, to statehouse legislators have already announced their re-election bids. We’ll be sharing more information as the elections near about how these races are lining up, but we expect some significant jockeying for positions, and for these races to impact policy decisions and bills in the upcoming legislative session.
- Redistricting – Pursuant to the U.S. Census that happens every 10 years, new congressional and legislative maps were finalized on Nov. 15, 2021. Colorado gained one U.S. House seat (federal) and all 35 Colorado Senate (state) and 65 Colorado House (state) seats were redrawn – many significantly. Some current members were drawn out of their districts. Others are termed out, running for congress, paired to run against another sitting legislature, or leaving elected office. As such, redistricting will also play a significant role in how policies take shape. There is some speculation that the Senate could change to a Republican majority, but either way, the party control numbers are expected to be closer following the 2022 mid-term election. We will be watching to see if this factor prompts legislators to act with political restraint or recklessness in moving any type of policy agenda.
- Budget/Federal Funding – The December 2021 budget forecast, while still relatively uncertain, shows state revenue projections are up. This will trigger an increase in taxpayer refunds, but the legislature will still have an additional $1 billion to spend or save. There is also an added $3.5 billion in one-time money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the legislature to spend this year. This will spark any number of policy debates over new programs that will include workforce development, housing, and healthcare (especially behavioral health). The CDA plans to partner with a legislator to submit an ARPA funding request to increase dental care services for senior adults and for children in schools. Another ARPA funding request that has been separately submitted would provide “hero pay” (or bonus payments) to certain healthcare providers with lower wages, and may included dental assistants.
- Key Issues – All these factors will impact how the legislature behaves during the 120-day session. Some key policy topics for the 2022 legislative session are expected to include continued criminal justice reforms, a universal preschool proposal, environmental policy reforms, and efforts to support organized labor. In addition to these policies, we expect any number of bills in response to the Texas and Mississippi abortion laws and anticipate any action by the U.S Supreme Court in response to these laws having a significant impact in Colorado.
It will certainly be a busy legislative session – with many additional initiatives that have not yet been shared. We look forward to providing additional updates as the legislative session progresses.