This post was written by Gretchen Hammer, a former member of our team.
Merriam-Webster defines endurance as, “the ability to do something difficult for a long time.”
Endurance is a hot topic at CCMU right now as we put the finishing touches on a strategic framework to guide our efforts for the next three years. It has been seventeen years since we were founded by a committee of dedicated physicians and health care leaders who came together with the shared goal of creating opportunities and eliminating barriers to good health for medically underserved Coloradans. Stakeholders engaged in our strategic planning process said our fidelity and unwavering commitment to this mission is one of the unique strengths of CCMU. They also told us we should keep doing what we are good at doing—working with state leaders to make changes to our health care system, supporting local leaders to do the same in their communities, and sharing high quality data and information about the lives and experiences of the medically underserved.
In the last five years tremendous work and organizational energy has been focused on making changes to the health insurance landscape in Colorado. And we have seen success. Recent figures from the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing show that as of June 2014, over 58,000 parents of children covered by Medicaid have gained Medicaid coverage, as well as an additional 187,000 adults without dependent children. Children and pregnant women have also seen gains in coverage, and, over 140,000 Coloradans have used Connect for Health Colorado to purchase private health insurance.
These gains are tremendous and should be celebrated. But, at CCMU we have always been about coverage AND care. We cannot stop at coverage gains; we must keep doing the difficult work to ensure that the insurance coverage Coloradans have enables them to access the health care they need in the right setting. Lucky for us, there is already a lot underway to increase access to care in Colorado.
In August we celebrate both Community Health Center Week and Safety Net Clinic Week. These events highlight the important work done by community-based health systems to meet the health care needs of members of their community, especially those who may be at risk for poor health or otherwise underserved. Many of these clinics and health centers recently increased their capacity by hiring new staff, building new facilities, and expanding hours in order to meet the needs of the newly insured. Across the state there are also many independently practicing health care providers and acute care facilities that have a strong history of providing care in their community and are ready to welcome the newly insured.
However, we must be honest that more difficult work lies ahead. As we continue to learn about the health needs of the newly insured, we must commit to addressing the access to care issues that we discover. We know that access to specialists for patients covered by Medicaid can be a challenge in some communities. We know that some providers are wary of taking care of patients covered by Medicaid or by plans purchased through the marketplace. We know we have a silver tsunami—a huge growth in our senior population—and other demographic changes underway. We also know that we have a long-standing need to transform the payment and delivery systems to increase value and improve patient and provider experiences.
As our founding Board President said in our 15-year celebration video, “We will never quit. We will never quit until we reach our goal of access to health care for all Coloradans.” Historic levels of health insurance coverage have accelerated us toward our goal and now we are ready to do the hard work tackling the issues of access to care. We hope you will endure with us.