Healthcare Business News
Dr. Irene Aguilar, a Colorado Democratic state legislator

Colo. doc lawmaker says new position isn't conflict of interest

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: January 22, 2013 - 6:00 pm ET

Dr. Irene Aguilar, a Colorado Democratic state legislator, has resigned as a primary-care physician at Denver Health, the state's safety net system anchored by the Denver Health Medical Center, and has taken a seat on the Denver Health and Hospital Authority board of directors.

“This will allow me to continue to advocate for the patients served by Denver Health and to learn more about the management of a healthcare supplier,” Aguilar said in her Jan. 20 newsletter.

Aguilar, recently elected assistant majority leader of the Colorado state Senate and named chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, has been a longtime advocate of establishing a statewide cooperative to provide universal healthcare access for Colorado residents.

Aguilar said she asked the legislative legal office if her service on the Denver board would create a conflict of interest.

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“In light of the fact that I have no financial interest in whether or not Denver Health and Hospitals thrives as an institution, they stated that there is NOT a conflict of interest,” Aguilar said in an e-mail.

The Colorado Hospital Association also said it does not have a problem with Aguilar's dual roles.

“CHA does not believe there is a conflict of interest,” Julian Kesner, CHA spokesman, said. “CHA holds Sen. Aguilar and her accomplishments as both a state legislator and physician in the highest regard, and we look forward to continuing to work with her throughout the 2013 legislative session.”

In her newsletter, Aguilar noted that she intends to keep practicing when her legislative schedule allows.

“I still plan to practice medicine during the off session, but will do this on a contractual basis with Denver Health and other entities,” she said. “This was a hard decision for me, but I did not feel it was in Denver Health's best interest to be encumbered to me when their needs are so great.”

She added that her legislative agenda “will focus on helping Coloradans and small businesses achieve economic security by providing access to quality affordable healthcare.” This focus will include “expanding and improving Medicaid” and creating a healthcare cooperative that “would not be government owned or operated,” but would—according to the Co-operate Colorado website—provide comprehensive healthcare and “allow medical professionals to practice medicine instead of doing paperwork.”

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