This post was written by Gretchen Hammer, a previous member of our team.
Five years ago this month, a bipartisan Commission of health care leaders in Colorado released a set of recommendations to increase health care coverage in Colorado and reduce health care costs. In their words, the package of recommendations outlined, "a bold, yet realistic approach for providing affordable, high quality health care for all Coloradans."
The Commission's recommendations reflect certain "philosophical imperatives" including:
- Everyone - individuals, employers, providers, insurers, and the government - has a role to play in addressing Colorado's health care needs. All have a share in the responsibility; all will share in the benefits.
- Because most Coloradans have insurance, we should build on the strengths of the current system, keeping and broadening what works to minimize dislocation for those who already have good coverage, while making important changes to better meet the needs of those who currently lack affordable health coverage.
- "One size fits all" doesn't work in health care. People have differing income levels and health care needs, and health status can change in an instant. Communities' needs vary greatly, depending on geographic location, demographic makeup, and numerous other factors. We need a range of interventions that respond to a variety of individual and community situations.
As I reflect on these imperatives and the progress we have made implementing a number of the recommendations of the Commission, I am so proud. We have taken action to get better value from our health care dollars by creating the Center for Improving Value in Health Care and launching the All Payer Claims Database. We have taken action to expand coverage, reduce uncompensated care at hospitals, and improve public coverage programs. We have improved health information exchange through CORHIO and access for the medically underserved through the Colorado Health Services Corps. Provisions in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have led to the elimination of co-pays for prevention and wellness.
Even more changes are in store for 2013. The Colorado Health Benefit Exchange (called a Connector by the Commission) will open on October 1, 2013. Thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act, providers who care for patients insured by Medicaid will see a 32% payment increase for the next two years, fully funded by the federal government. This summer, a statewide Care Transitions Campaign will launch, bringing additional attention and resources to creating "healthy handoffs" for patients moving from one care setting to another - an event in our current health care system that continues to be incredibly challenging for patients and families as well as costly.
These and other outstanding accomplishments have positioned Colorado as a leader, but we still have much more work ahead. Our statewide conversation and action on coverage issues has been extensive, but it has not been matched by equally robust progress on access to care. Given the national changes to health care that will be in place by this time next year, I believe we need an urgent and comprehensive dialogue on health care access. The Commission called for a focus on medical homes and workforce issues, and these will be critical parts of that conversation.
We believe Colorado is better when everyone has access to the health services they need to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. We're not there yet, but I'm confident we can make it. As long as we stay focused on our shared philosophical imperatives - that everyone has a role to play, that we must build on our strengths, and that we will need a variety of approaches - we will be successful, and lead Colorado into a healthier future.