Where Health Reform Gets Rocky

Spent the latter part of last week in Colorado at the invitation of the Colorado Health Foundation. Folks out there are interested in kicking the tired on the MA health reform plan. I tried to give ’em just the facts and let them draw their own conclusions. Some observations:

Lots and lots of interest in what we did. A Denver Chamber of Commerce lunch drew over 300 folks. Four health care foundations — all resulting from non-profit to for-profit conversations — are collaborating to jump start reform interest in the state which has about 17% uninsured compared with our rate of under 10%. Several hundred state legislators and health industry folks at an annual symposium were genuinely eager for details and understanding.

Reform is held back in Colorado because of something called TABOR — taxpayers bill or rights — which strictly limits state spending increases and requires voter approval of nearly all tax increases. Surprisingly, the business community is trending increasingly anti-TABOR as the inability to increase public investments thwarts improvement in health care, education, and infrastructure.

I met with the Dem candidate for governor, Bill Ritter, Denver DA, who is now surprisingly ahead of Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez, with the latter losing business support because of hardline TABOR support. Ritter’s a sensible guy who wants to move a health care agenda.

Lots of desire evident to address health coverage as a critical state need. Not a lot of certainty how to do it. The Massachusetts plan has some interesting facets that could be helpful in CO. But they are starting from a much more difficult place and have a much higher hill to climb.

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