The legislative session has ended — time for those yearly check-ups!
Under the Dome
Now that the legislative session is over, Joyce and I are spending time at home catching up on overdue home and body maintenance. I’ve had the necessity and the opportunity to experience our valley’s health care system, and that experience has caused me to reflect on what the people in the waiting room with me are also experiencing. I get tired of repeatedly filling out the same forms, but I’ve met some great people and come to appreciate once again the quality of health care available if we can just navigate insurance, be covered by Medicaid or Medicare, pay deductibles, or with no insurance, pay for services.
Special shout outs to my physician’s assistant Greg, my physical therapist Emily, Ike at Glenwood Orthopedics, and Natalie at the imaging center. By now, you may have guessed that I have a knee that needs fixing, probably from standing around the Capitol too much. I’m sure they’ll get me fixed up this summer for another session next year. It occurs to me that in our grandparents’ day, active life might have ended with a bad joint (not marijuana, I hope). We’re lucky to maintain our active Colorado life style well beyond what our grandparents could.
My own recent experience does remind me that health care is one of the most troublesome domestic issues facing state and federal government, health care providers and consumers (100 percent of us). Health care for state employees together with the state’s share of Medicaid is the fastest growing segment of Colorado’s budget. Whether you’re on Medicaid, employer provided insurance, private insurance or Medicare, or uninsured, the growing costs of health care are affecting your life. And the debate rages between the merits of a government-funded single payer system and private insurance.
Colorado and the federal government now provide care for 20 percent of Coloradans, about 1.2 million residents through Medicaid. The Joint Budget Committee, of which I’m a member, is very concerned that we have little transparency into rates that we pay providers of services under Medicaid. There are thousands of payment codes within the Medicaid payment process. We’re working together with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Finance on a process that will ensure that providers are accessible and are fairly compensated.
And costs and deductibles for private insurance rates for employer-provided plans and private policies have soared as policies are required to meet minimum provisions of the “Affordable Care Act.” Rates in Garfield County and other mountain communities, based on the costs and utilization of available care in our region, are much higher than those in the urban areas of the Front Range. Companies looking for a place to locate and individuals considering a retirement home are thinking twice before coming to rural Colorado.
There’s no immediate or easy answer to health care, but I urge us all to be cognizant of its impact on our state’s budget and our economy. From my perspective we can’t continue to promise our citizens more than we can deliver within our budget and revenue restrictions. Do we neglect transportation and education in order to provide health care? It’s a matter of priorities with a balanced budget and revenue restrictions under TABOR.
What are your thoughts on this and other issues? I’ll be going back into budget hearings in November and representing you. Now’s the time to sound off.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month (usually). State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his second term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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