The Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform made its final report to the Colorado General Assembly last week. The 176 page document was endorsed by 24 of the 27 diverse commissioners, and includes provisions that the Commission says will reduce the number of Coloradans without health insurance (currently 792,000 people) by 88%.
The commission has come up with an extensive list of suggestions and recommendations for reform in Colorado, starting with the premise that since most Colorado residents have health insurance already, we should build on the current system rather than scrapping it. They recommend that everyone in Colorado be required to have health insurance, and propose making this feasible by expanding Cover Colorado and public health insurance systems as well as providing subsidies to lower income families struggling to pay health insurance premiums. The commission would enforce the health insurance mandate through the income tax system, much as Mass has done. Insuring everyone is really the first step towards creating a truly sustainable health insurance and health care system. It seems like the commission has a good understanding of the importance of making sure everyone has health insurance while also addressing the financial barriers that currently keep many families uninsured.
The Commission has also recommended that Colorado expand the current public health systems, including Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+). This would greatly help families that currently earn too much money to qualify for state funded health insurance but cannot afford individual health insurance either.
A further recommendation is to enhance patient access to cost comparisons and quality rankings of health care providers, in an effort to encourage consumer involvement in the health care marketplace. Most of us spend far more time shopping for a TV than for a doctor. And often that is because there’s really not that much information to go on. Patients armed with a more transparent cost and quality analysis could become informed consumers – those of us with HSA-qualified health insurance would love to see more transparency in health care. And more accessible quality reports would presumably increase the overall standard of care, since providers would have to compete with each other to provide the best care and attract new patients.
The Commission also addresses the needs of the medically under-served communities, recommending that public health systems and safety net providers receive increased funding. These are the groups that currently serve much of the uninsured Colorado population, and it makes sense to improve them as much as possible.
The Commission has obviously put a lot of time and effort into this report. Last fall there were rumblings about not having enough time or money to come up with adequate solutions, and yet they did it anyway. It will be interesting to see what the General Assembly does with the recommendations from the Commission now that the report is final.