Legislative failure keeps affordability on radar in Colorado
DENVER—With lawmakers nationwide mired in partisan politics, industry leaders say they must turn inward if the long-standing problems of healthcare access and affordability are ever going to be adequately addressed.
"The good news is people are talking about healthcare. The bad news is it's mostly political," Scott Serota, president and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, said during a panel discussion on the midterm elections at Modern Healthcare's 2018 Leadership Symposium. "I hope that those of us in this room will recognize that it is our accountability to solve the problem."
While the bulk of the conversations at this gathering of high-powered industry executives centered on experimenting with ways to address everything from social determinants to value-based payment, there's a disconnect when it comes to achieving legislative change.
Colorado stands out as an example.
In late 2017, Lt. Gov. and Chief Operating Officer Donna Lynne hosted a series of town hall meetings on healthcare across the state. The goal: gain a deeper understanding of what issues are front and center for consumers.
Several bills emerged from the process, which also included conversations with industry stakeholders. One bill would have pushed the eligibility level for federal subsidies for exchange participants to 500% of the federal poverty level, up from 400%. Another would have required insurance companies covering state employees to also participate in the state-run Affordable Care Act exchange and to provide coverage in at least two high-cost counties. And there was a bill aimed at forcing hospitals to be more transparent about their prices.
Industry groups failed to get behind the bipartisan package and muster support to move them past a gridlocked committee.
"They were not on board because they would have had to do more and spend more," Lynne told Modern Healthcare following her opening remarks at the symposium. "It was disappointing." At the time of the legislative push, Lynne had hopes of winning the Democratic nod to run for governor.
But public pressure over affordability continues to be a hot-button issue in state politics. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who's now running for governor of Colorado, is championing universal coverage. Meanwhile his opponent—Republican Walker Stapleton, currently state treasurer—has talked extensively about the financial burden the state has faced under Medicaid expansion.
And earlier this week, the Denver Post, citing data from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, reported that hospital prices soared 76% from 2009 to 2016. The state hospital association refuted the report saying the findings were flawed.
A former healthcare executive, Lynne said that the national conversation over affordability will continue to creep into this purple state's political conversations until there's some action.
"These efforts have slowed options to tackle problems," Lynne said referring to the inability to pass her legislative package.
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