Colorado gubernatorial candidates present their health care platforms
by State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Republican candidate for governor
Featured in the September/October 2018 Colorado Medicine.
As I travel across Colorado’s 64 counties, a key concern of many Coloradans is the rising costs of health care. There are no silver bullets in health care. Each policy decision will have its benefits and disadvantages. However, I steadfastly believe that we get the best medical outcomes when there are fewer barriers between patients and doctors. Moving to a single-payer system will make it more difficult for doctors to be doctors. I will work to make reforms that ultimately streamline our public and private systems and allow doctors to focus on practicing medicine.
As governor, I will focus on improving quality and reducing the costs of health care in Colorado by working with a variety of groups to drive innovation, increase transparency, and improve the delivery of care. Through these actions we can make health care more accessible and affordable.
Across the board, our system needs to emphasize improving primary and preventive care. Many medical professionals have made clear the importance of taking proactive steps to monitor health conditions and take necessary actions through routine care before a patient ends up with a medical crisis in the emergency room.
A key component of this preventive care is greater integration of mental, behavioral and physical health. According to a report prepared for the American Psychiatric Association in 2014, it is estimated that people with comorbid physical and mental health conditions have medical costs that are roughly twice as high as the general population. The care for this segment accounts for over 30 percent of total health care spending, and is probably under-reported because of the stigma associated with mental health.
We need to work to integrate health services through co-location, telehealth, and any feasible route to help reduce the barriers for Colorado families to access care. Taking a holistic approach and promoting more of a one-stop-shop for primary, physical and mental health will help improve the lives of patients and lower our costs.
Medicaid is also an important part of the health care landscape and provides services to the most vulnerable in our population. We must mitigate the cliff effects and work to make private insurance more affordable. Medicaid covers nearly 1.4 million people in Colorado and is one of the largest parts of our state budget. As the associated costs have grown, it has crowded out funding for our schools and roads. More can be done to improve our administrative processes, delivery of care and patient-education to make improvements without sacrificing quality.
We must focus on outcomes-based systems for our publicly administered programs and work to reduce costs. We will work with a broad coalition of partners across the health care landscape, from patients and doctors to hospitals and payers, so as to not shift costs from the government’s programs onto consumers.
No family should be stuck with the decision of paying their mortgage or paying for health care. Too often these rising costs are preventing Coloradans from fulfilling the American dream of owning a home. We must create more choice and access for families in the types of coverage they can purchase. We have the ability to be creative and find solutions that work for Coloradans like the expansion of association plans, shorter-term plans, and catastrophic coverage options.
In addition, new services like mobile clinics and telehealth will help patients gain access to care, especially in underserved communities. Make no mistake, I will defend patients with pre-existing conditions and continue to allow young adults under 26 to stay on their parents’ coverage. Any proposals to roll back these provisions will be rejected by my administration.
The good news is that today over 93 percent of Coloradans have coverage and over 79 percent are satisfied with the care their families receive through their employers or state programs. But more must be done to reign in costs and help find solutions to expand coverage to those still struggling to gain access. We must do this in a way that does not throw out what works in our system. Simply put, a government-run, single-payer health care program will result in higher taxes and less choices. It will bankrupt Colorado and drive families, businesses and physicians out of our state.
Walker Stapleton is currently the Colorado state treasurer and the Republican candidate for governor.