The final word: Gaining momentum as the healthiest state

Friday, March 01, 2013 12:50 PM
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By Governor John Hickenlooper

Coloradans are known for enjoying a healthy lifestyle.

Open spaces and natural beauty offer Coloradans the opportunity to lead active and healthy lives. But health – and illness – does not impact everyone equally. And not everyone stays healthy by enjoying great recreational opportunities.

For Colorado to become the healthiest state – and not just the thinnest state, we need a broad and comprehensive strategy that draws on both public and private sectors. Individual responsibility also plays a critical role.

At the state level, we are pursuing a number of goals.

First, we are promoting prevention and wellness to help people stay healthy and become healthier.

We’ve identified several “winnable battles” focusing on obesity, oral health, mental health and substance abuse. In each of these efforts, we are working with partners in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to help people – especially kids – live healthier lives.

Terrible incidents of gun violence last year brought mental health to the forefront. In response, we are improving our crisis- and community-based services to treat mental health and substance abuse challenges. We’ll also tackle the problem of prescription drug abuse by sponsoring a National Governor’s Association (NGA) summit in Denver this year.

Second, we are expanding access to health care and increasing capacity to help ensure that when people need care, they have a place to go.

Insurance coverage is a critical piece of the puzzle. Colorado’s bipartisan support in launching a Health Insurance Exchange puts us ahead of other states. We are expanding Medicaid eligibility, but in conjunction with efforts to reduce costs. We have proposed a Medicaid provider rate increase in next year’s budget, and we are working with regional and local partners to pilot new payment methods that create savings.

The Accountable Care Collaborative (ACC) is a partnership between local providers, regional care coordination organizations and Medicaid. This effort will expand access to care by using provider resources more effectively. The ACC will be the foundation of Medicaid’s delivery system and payment reform efforts, as we plan to transition up to 70 percent of Medicaid clients into this model by 2018.

Third, we are integrating the ways we deliver care to improve quality and drive efficiency.

We believe the most effective way to deliver health care is by treating the “whole person,” which means better integration of traditional physical and medical health systems with behavioral health, public health, oral health, and long-term services and supports. Health information technology – including electronic medical records, health information exchange, and tele-health capabilities – is a core component of our strategy. We are also evaluating and redesigning the long-term care system to meet the coming needs of the “silver tsunami,” a 54 percent increase in Colorado’s senior
population by 2021.

Finally, we need to support innovation, control costs and harness the creativity of the private sector to link health and economic progress.

Since its inception in 2011, the Accountable Care Collaborative has enrolled 250,000 Medicaid members and reduced expenses by $20 million – including an 8.6 percent reduction in readmissions and a 3.3 percent decrease in high-cost imaging – which allowed for the return of $3 million to state and federal taxpayers.

We also recently announced a five-point plan to save $280 million in Medicaid over the next 10 years. These savings will be achieved by aligning coverage policies with evidence-based practice, transforming the statewide delivery systems to encourage practice-level integration, transitioning payment systems from volume-based to value-based, improving Medicaid’s IT infrastructure, and streamlining administrative systems to provide more effective, efficient and elegant services with less fraud and waste.

We are building health and wellness into Colorado’s economic development strategy, attracting companies whose business interests – and the interests of their employees – align with Colorado’s vision.

Working with Colorado Workers for Innovations and New Solutions, we are also looking at innovative ways to improve health outcomes and lower expenses for state employees.
Health care professionals are important allies in all these efforts. Whether you accept new Medicaid patients in your practice, link your EMR to a health information exchange network, help us shape strategies to improve health outcomes, or work to reduce prescription drug abuse, we need your vision and your voice.

In coming months and years we look forward to your participation in making Colorado the healthiest state in America.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Final Word | Initiatives | Advocacy | Physician Wellness


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