Colorado election results

Tuesday, January 01, 2013 12:14 PM
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Now what? The post-election significance to medicine

Susan Koontz, CMS Senior Director of Public Affairs, General Counsel

From candidate and incumbent screening to endorsements and grassroots support, the initial phase of physician engagement in the political process wrapped up with last month’s election results. We are now in the transitional phase where we sort through plans and priorities, prior to the convening of the Colorado General Assembly in January.

There is much to consider given the sweep by the Democrats and the unprecedented health care finance and delivery options tasked by Congress to the Assembly. We’ll face an array of perennial issues, not the least of which will be another well-heeled push by the trial attorneys to expand their reach and ability to sue physicians and hospitals.

During this transitional period, our leaders and advocacy team, in coordination with colleagues in your respective communities, will follow up with these legislators from both parties - many of whom we strongly supported - and brief them on our collective policy concerns.

In those relatively few circumstances where local physicians endorsed their opponent, we will offer to work with them on many prospective issues of common concern with the hope those legislators will evolve into “friendly incumbents” during their tenure. And during the session, we’ll move forward with our grassroots engagement with those legislators in the halls of the state Capitol.

Here is our outlook on Colorado’s political environment going into the 2013 General Assembly and its implications for health care policy.

  1. The re-election of the president, the continued partisan split in Congress, and the fairly definitive ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the federal health reform law put to rest attempts at repeal or significant emasculation of the law. The Colorado Legislature will thus have a far wider field of policy options to consider regarding the design, funding alternatives and infrastructure of the optional Medicaid expansion and the Health Insurance Exchange work-in-progress. In that respect, we are fortunate that our state enjoys an enlightened body of health policy leaders among the medical, provider, payer and employer communities, as witnessed by a history of thoughtful collaboration and a considerable range of efforts well underway. We won’t be starting from scratch; we will have a strong sense of what works, is already working, and what might not work.
  2. The Democrats will be the ruling majority in both the Colorado House and Senate, a very different political dynamic from our most recent experiences with a split majority between the two chambers.
  3. Colorado elected/re-elected a larger pool of legislators who are predisposed to tackle questions of care access and network adequacy, funding streams that encourage care coordination, and related measures aimed at higher degrees of payer and provider transparency and accountability. While that imposes some risk of enacting suboptimal or adversarial policies, it opens far more doors than it closes.
  4. The likelihood of some of these proposals languishing in a committee is significantly decreased. Thus, we will be called upon to engage more frequently in policy discussions as a mostly lay-legislature with a focused interest in the value of state health care resources and finance struggles with the complexities of health policy choices they have not had the luxury to study in any depth.
  5. That also means other more antagonistic proposals – especially those brought by the Colorado trial lawyers – are likely to spill over into both chambers, and medicine will be fighting along a 100-member front rather than the confines of a six- or nine-member committee.
  6. There will be a spike in legislative activity that we expect will have a disproportionate health care mix. COMPAC and CMS’ extensive investment in grassroots-centric physician activism over the last several months will be regularly deployed during the impending session. It will be a combined fire drill, marathon and Code Blue in one brutal stretch of five-plus months.

    Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Legislative Updates | Initiatives | Advocacy


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