State health care commission sees ideas implemented

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Members of Colorado’s blue-ribbon health care panel must have experienced a serious case of déjà vu when the federal health care reform legislation passed this spring.

That’s because there are so many similarities between their recommendations, made January 2008 to the Colorado General Assembly, and the final bill that passed Congress in March.

Colorado, it appears, simply got a head start on the federal government.

In the year before Barack Obama was elected president, Colorado launched a yearlong effort to come up with recommendations to the state legislature for health care reform.

That effort, known as the 208 Commission after the bill that created it, is mirrored in the federal reform act that passed earlier this year, according to a just-out report from the Colorado Trust, a nonprofit health care foundation.

The bipartisan commission represented consumers, health insurance purchasers, providers, business leaders and health care experts. The process took most of 2007, and recommendations were delivered to the state legislature in January 2008. Both former Gov. Bill Owens and Ritter selected the participants, as did both members of the state House and Senate. The bipartisan commission was made up of both Democrats and Republicans.

“It’s important to remind Coloradans that we have an agreed-upon state roadmap for health care reform,” said Dr. Ned Calonge, president and CEO of the Colorado Trust. “This new side-by-side comparison shows that our state’s blueprint for health care reform shares significant similarities with that of the new federal law.”

The Colorado Trust believes that having the 208 Commission’s recommendations in place will make it easier for the state to implement federal health care reform plans.

Similarities include:

  • Assuring access to health care coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Requiring all individuals to obtain health insurance coverage as a means to reach coverage for all.
  • Expanding coverage options to low- and middle-income adults and children by raising Medicaid eligibility.
  • Creating a health insurance exchange to make purchase of health coverage easier and more affordable.
  • Reducing variations in health insurance premiums.
  • Requiring many employers to offer health care coverage.
  • Providing financial incentives to health care providers for improved patient outcomes.
  • Reducing health care costs by standardizing financial and administrative processes.
  • Establishing medical home models so every family has a doctor.
  • Providing incentives to insurers to offer wellness programs.
  • Expanding coverage for preventive services like mammograms and immunizations.

Colorado’s suggested reforms and the federal law have some distinctions, however. Federal health care reform requirements and the state commission’s recommendations differ in how to best sustain employer-based coverage and how to assure that people with pre-existing conditions are able to purchase coverage.

In many cases, the 208 Commission recommendations called for changes that go beyond those set by federal law.

Federal health care reform expanded Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, whereas the 208 Commission recommended expansion to 205 percent of the federal poverty level.

The 208 Commission recommended public subsidies for employees to purchase health insurance from their employers’ plans. There is no such subsidy in the federal plan.

The 208 Commission recommended support for the creation of a statewide health information network; the federal bill contains no specific provision about health information technology.

Medical identity theft: a growing problem

Nearly 33 percent of medical practices see some sort of medical identity theft, according to a survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Despite that, only 17 percent of staffers in doctors’ office said they were likely to report medical ID theft, as opposed to 38 percent of hospital workers.

The report was the result of 272 interviews with information technology and security professionals at hospitals and doctors’ offices around the country.

Nearly 75 percent said they perform risk assessments at their organizations.

Medical identity theft — using someone else’s insurance card or information to obtain medical care — is going to be a big focus in upcoming years, as the medical profession moves toward implementing nationwide electronic health records.

Security is an essential part of the move toward electronic health records, particularly as hospitals and doctors’ office move to share more records across multiple networks.

Amy Gillentine can be reached at 719-329-5205 or at amy.gillentine@csbj.com. Friend her on Facebook.