Cost commission kicks off

Monday, September 01, 2014 12:20 PM
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Health policy leaders begin herculean three-year task

by Bob Mook, CMS contributing writer

Sixteen Colorado thought leaders convened at COPIC’s headquarters in Aurora on Aug. 22 to take their first steps to understand and resolve what many regard as the “mother of all health policy problems.”

Appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper and state legislators, the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care is charged with producing public policy recommendations to control costs and improve quality in health care.

Members of the commission represent a diverse continuum of experts and stakeholders throughout Colorado’s health care system – from the government to the private sector, insurers and providers. (For a complete list of commissioners and their thoughts about their mission, see the accompanying breakout box).

Created after the 2014 Colorado General Assembly approved Senate Bill 187, the three-year commission will analyze the causes of rising health costs with the goal of compiling recommendations for addressing cost and quality issues in Colorado.

“I know that many of you realize that the task in front of us is herculean,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, a co-sponsor SB 187. Another co-sponsor of the bi-partisan bill, Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Manitou Springs, urged commissioners to strive for consensus and respectful dialogue to keep the commission from “devolving into a political exercise.”

During the first meeting, members of the commission unanimously voted Bill Lindsay the interim chair. Lindsay, the president of Lockton Employee Benefits Group, chaired the Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform. Better known as the 208 Commission, the group studied and established health care reform models for expanding coverage – especially for the underinsured and uninsured – and to decrease health care costs for Colorado residents. That commission submitted a final report to the General Assembly in 2008, containing many policy recommendations that were either adopted by the state or resembled provisions of what became the Affordable Care Act.

Four members of the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care, including Lindsay, also served on the 208 Commission.

Along with introductions, discussing commissioners’ hopes and fears about the outcome of the commission, and appointing an interim chair, the commission appointed members of a planning committee who will begin the work of putting together the logistics of operating a three-year commission process.

Members of the commission must meet at least once a month, according to SB 187. For now information about the commission can be found on the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Finance’s website.

Who’s on board?

During their first-ever meeting on Aug. 22, members of the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care discussed what they hoped would come out of the three-year process.

“Part of our task is to build upon what we’ve already accomplished in the state of Colorado. We have a lot of opportunities to come forward with ideas in payment and delivery-system reforms.”
Elizabeth Arenales, JD
Director of Health Care Program, Colorado Center on Law and Policy

“In three years, I hope we will have a group that’s bipartisan, outcomes-based and evidence based. … If we don’t do this, the cost of health care is going to squeeze out things like education and roads and the things that are important to our lives.”
Jeffrey Cain, MD, FAAFP
Representing the Colorado Medical Society

“Thinking about affordable health care and how all the pieces come together is critical for Colorado. … If we come out of this in three years with some things we can really implement, I would consider this a success.”
Rebecca Cordes
Executive vice president, First Western Trust

“We need to understand the drivers of health care costs and why they exist. The quality of care really needs to be on the forefront.”
Greg D’Argonne
Chief financial officer, HCA-HealthONE and HCA Continental Division

“[Health costs] are an enormously complex issue. It’s important for us to focus on the best practices in reducing costs and improving care and not engage in debate.”
Steve ErkenBrack
President and CEO, Rocky Mountain Health Plans

“I’d like to come away with some bold recommendations. I think what will prevent our success is to try and sanitize things and not ask the hard questions.”
Ira Gorman, PT, PhD
Associate professor Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, Regis University

“Three years from now, I hope we stop thinking of people as groups and start thinking of them as individuals.”
Linda Gorman
Director of the Health Care Policy Center at the Independence Institute

“My perspective is that this is probably one of the most important opportunities that the state has and an opportunity to do a lot of good, but also to do a lot of damage if we are not thoughtful and careful.”
William Lindsay III
President of Lockton Employee Benefits Group

“I hope we can help the citizens of this state understand the importance of health insurance and why they need it.”
Marcy Morrison
Former commissioner of the Colorado Division of Insurance

“Health care is much bigger than treatment, medications, lab work and X-rays. It is truly a whole-person concept. And if we can’t break out of that narrow definition, then we’re not going to get a handle on costs.”
Dorothy Ann Perry
CEO, Spanish Peaks Behavioral Centers

“One year from today, I’d like to have some direction for the way forward. I’m very confident about making some positive change in health care.
Cindy Sovine-Miller
Political consultant, Sovine Miller and Co.

“We’re in a time of change and there really have been a lot of positive changes [in health care]. I think we need to evaluate those changes and also look forward ... to ensure the people of Colorado have the best health care possible.”
Chris Tholen
Vice president of Financial Policy, Colorado Hospital Association

In addition, five ex-officio members will serve the commission:

  • Dee Martinez, director of public relations and marketing, Denver Health
  • Susan Birch, MBA, BSN, RN, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
  • Marguerite Salazar, commissioner of insurance, Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies
  • Jay Want, MD, chief medical officer, the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC)
  • Larry Wolk, MD, MPH, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Posted in: Practice Evolution | Transparency | Health System Reform


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