The farmer who came to State Rep. Marc Catlin had a problem — an $83,000 problem, the result of out-of-network medical costs that hadn’t been disclosed to him. The constituent was considering mortgaging his farm to pay the tab.
“I knew that it was happening, but I had not talked to anybody,” the Montrose Republican said, adding the man’s situation “is not something you want to have happen to people.”
Catlin worked to address the farmer’s plight and those in similar straits, by carrying House Bill 1174, which is designed to curb surprise medical bills that come when part of a person’s treatment occurs out of his or her insurance network.
Under the bill, which was signed into law in May, providers have to furnish information concerning out-of-network providers and facilities, including the claims and payment processes. The bill further creates a penalty for failure to comply.
Catlin says the new law put a “benchmark” on how much can be billed to patients who receive care out of network. “That will help some people not get those outrageously big bills. I think that will be good for Colorado,” Catlin said.
Some other pieces of legislation Catlin sponsored or backed addressed ditch easements for irrigators — and, in the long run, water conservation — and modernizing the fee structure for hunting and fishing violations.
HB-1082 clarifies in statute that ditch owners’ rights-of-way include the right to construct, clean, maintain, repair and replace the ditch, and the right-of-way allows access onto properties for those reasons.
Catlin offered the bill after learning some some property owners were trying to stop those with ditch easements from accessing them for repairs.
“If Colorado is truly serious about water conservation, the low-hanging fruit is to improve the delivery systems. If we can pipe and line those, like we have in the Uncompahgre Valley, then those ditches don’t use as much water, because they don’t leak. That’s the first leg on the stool,” he said.
Catlin carried HB-1026 at the request of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Among other provisions, it increases fines for certain violations, including fishing without a license. The former fine schedule was behind the times — an out-of-state resident fishing without a license, for instance, faced a $50 fine. The cost of the license was $96, making it nearly twice as expensive to fish legally than not, Catlin said.
“It does help us protect the natural resources that belong to us in the state of Colorado. If you’re going to poach and those kinds of things, there should be some consequence to it. It shouldn’t be that the state was lagging behind the times,” he said.
The bill further invests more into programs to spark the interest of young hunters and anglers, so that hunting and fishing remain economically viable for the state in the long run.
Catlin was able to advance these bills with Democratic cosponsors, as well as several measures benefitting agriculture, but the session overall was tough for the minority party and, he said, the urban-rural divide is a long way from being bridged.
“It felt like we were in front of a bulldozer. Regardless if we fought it or not, we weren’t going to stop it,” he said.
“A lot of the bills that went through never even considered what it was going to do in Western Colorado, or out in the country. It was focused a lot on urban issues,” Catlin added.
“To them, that’s Colorado. It is hard to change their direction, but at least we were able to stand up and talk to them about our issues. That will continue to be a major issue in the state Legislature.”
He said he was particularly disappointed in the so-called “red flag” law, which created a means of obtaining an extreme risk protection order, through which a court orders removal of firearms from those who are deemed a risk to themselves or others.
The red flag bill could have been done better, had backers allowed more discussion, and they seemed more focused on guns than on mental health, Catlin said.
“In my mind, it’s about the person you’re worried about. If they’re that mentally ill, or that angry, it seems like we need to reach out to that person. I think we missed the mark on that one,” he said.
Resources for addressing mental health issues are critically lacking, particularly in rural Colorado and he anticipates the Legislature will take up related issues next session.
“We need more beds. We need to be addressing this issue better in the state of Colorado,” Catlin said.
Although the Legislature is now out of session, Catlin is busy on several interim committees and is also traveling the 58th District for constituent feedback.
“One of the things I’m finding is it’s better for me to go find out what people would like to see done. It allows people to come and talk to me about the things that are bothering them and see if there is a legislative way to fix it,” he said.
Catlin is eager to get back to work. “We’re trying to do something that’s good for the state and for our district,” he said.