Memorial panel to deliver recommendation Nov. 22

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Months of research, deliberations and debate will come to an end for the Memorial citizens’ commission on Nov 22. That’s the date set for the commission to deliver its final report to the Colorado Springs City Council.

The commission has been tasked with making recommendations to city council about the future of the city-owned hospital system. Nov. 22 will mark the end of the very long journey that started in February. In the intervening months, the commission has learned about health care in general — and about different governance systems for hospitals. It’s spent nearly $500,000 on public relations and health care consultants.

The commission plans to keep an active schedule until then — one that will include two more town hall meetings. The public will be invited to ask questions both in person and via the Internet at town halls in September and November. Those dates have not yet been set, said commission Chairman Bob Lally.

And coming up Aug. 4, the group will hear from an independent consultant concerning the pros and cons in a sale to both a for-profit and a non-profit system. The report from David Burik follows presentations from Poudre Valley Health System in Fort Collins and Denver Health, both of which were once municipal hospitals.

In keeping with its promise to encourage community involvement, each of the upcoming meetings of the Memorial Commission is at a different time and different location.

The meetings are set for:

8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4 at the Colorado Springs Police Department, Stetson Hills Division, 4110 Tutt Blvd. Speaker is David Burik, Navigant Consulting, about nonprofit and for-profit models.

8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18 at the Colorado Springs Fire Department Station 8, 3737 Airport Road. Speaker: Ed Epperson, president and CEO of Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. Topic will be privatization of a city/county owned facility.

10:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 27 at the Julie Penrose Health Education and Research Center. Northcare Building, 6071 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 220. Speaker: Dr. Ronal Paulus. Topic will be integrated delivery system.

Medical marijuana applications create health department jobs

The flood of medical marijuana applications has led to a small job boom inside the state’s health department.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is adding 56 temporary employees to process the backlog of applications.

More than 105,000 people have successfully applied to the registry this year. Of that number, 73,000 are in the backlog of applications still being processed and waiting for their official registry card.

With the influx of new employees, the department hopes to eliminate the backlog during the next eight months.

The health department has also selected the members of its Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee that will help make the rules required by two bills that passed the Colorado General Assembly during its last session.

Nearly 100 people applied for nine public positions on the committee.

Insurance Commissioner: State is ahead on reform

Colorado is ahead of the rest of the nation in implementing parts of the health care reform bill.

Insurance Commissioner Marcy Morrison said a 2008 law that gives the commissioner more authority to check into the financial health of insurance companies when approving rate increases gives the state the advantage as it moves toward that segment of reform.

“We can ask for budget reports, stock reports, basically look at their bottom line,” she said. “It’s a very big tool we can use when approving these rate increases.”

Insurance companies will come under more scrutiny as reform gets implemented.

The division receives from 1,000 and 1,200 premium hike requests each year, and between 10 to 15 are denied, triggering an often-lengthy market exam review.

“We have so many of those that we now outsource some of the work,” Morrison said. “They take a lot of time, a lot of personnel.”

In Massachusetts, the model for national reform, the state commissioner of insurance denied 235 of 274 requests for rate increases in April alone.

While that sounds as if Massachusetts is being more aggressive, Morrison said the numbers for Colorado don’t reflect the amount of give-and-take that goes on between actuaries in the insurance division and the industry.

“Whenever we have a question, something doesn’t look right, we always call them and give them a chance to make it right, to give us more information,” she said. “So that’s not reflected in the numbers — (but) we do it all the time.”

Why negotiate rather than simply reject, as Massachusetts does? Because, Morrison said, doing so can save money and help protect consumers.

Amy Gillentine can be reached at 719-329-5205 or at Friend her on Facebook.