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Colorado lawmakers approved a public option. Now, the state has to figure out how to build it 

click to enlarge Kim Bimestefer and Michael Conway, pictured, are faced with a daunting challenge. - COURTESY COLORADO DIVISION OF INSURANCE
  • Courtesy Colorado Division of Insurance
  • Kim Bimestefer and Michael Conway, pictured, are faced with a daunting challenge.
Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway, his face bearing the golden-retriever smile of someone who is used to getting yelled at but not taking it personally, opens the floor to comments with a suitably open-ended question: As Colorado designs a publicly backed health insurance plan, what should it look like?

State lawmakers this year passed a bill making Colorado one of the first states in the country to create such a plan. It would guarantee consumers have at least one comprehensive health insurance option across the state, even if private carriers pull out. It would offer coverage at prices competitive with or below current rates. Access and affordability were its buzzwords.

But lawmakers left the rest of the details blank. It would be up to Conway and Kim Bimestefer, the head of the state’s Medicaid department, to make it all work, a task no state official anywhere in the country has ever actually done.

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