Health Care Leadership Panel: Tackling COVID-19 and Curbing Costs

health care panel

From left: Lori Call, Boulder Chamber Senior Director of Policy Programs, moderates the Boulder Chamber Health Care Policy Roundtable featuring Tom Massey, Deputy Executive Director, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing; Ben Dzialo, Executive Director, Boulder Valley Care Network;  Dave Pinkert, President and Co-founder, Friday Health Plans; and Patrick Menzies, CEO, Boulder Medical Center.

The Boulder Chamber hosted a health care discussion on March 12, before the state’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines were enacted. The discussion began with a report from Mike Chard, Director of the Boulder Office of Emergency Management, regarding the scope of the COVID-19 challenge and our community’s response. The event was also offered via Facebook Live, and can be viewed on the Boulder Chamber’s Facebook page. Our partner, Boulder Transportation Connections, also provided information about teleworking, and talked with attendees about telecommuting options.

Mike Chard, Director of the Boulder Office of Emergency Management

In addition to COVID-19 guidance, the audience heard from health care experts about their suggestions on decreasing the cost of health care. The health care panel included leaders from government, insurance and the medical community.

Tom Massey, Deputy Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, discussed the recently released public option bill. This bill is the administration’s approach to reducing costs, and they estimate that if enacted, health insurance costs would drop 10-15% for the individual market. This is one mechanism the Governor Polis is pursuing to address what his administration believes are excessive hospital profits.

Many hospitals are not supportive of this approach. The Partnership for Accountability and Transparency in Healthcare argues that only one-third of Colorado’s $49 billion in annual health care spending is directed at hospitals, yet they treat the most severely injured and sickest patients. Additionally, they note that hospital reimbursement cuts could compromise care, access and community programs.

Dave Pinkert, President and Co-founder of Friday Health Plans is concerned about possible stress on hospitals that are cost conscious. He suggested this is a statewide solution to a regional problem.

Boulder Medical Center’s CEO, Patrick Menzies, mentioned that they were concerned about the size of the risk pool the public option proposal creates and its impact on small businesses. He also noted that physicians are less than 10% of the cost of health care, so a focus there only addresses a small slice of the costs. In addition, he expressed concerns about patients leaving the community for services. “We need to change the structure to incentivize people to make the appropriate behaviors,” he said.

The panel discussion also included the sharing of perspectives on a universal health care system. Many of the panelists noted that the mechanics of this are complicated. The Affordable Care Act and its initiatives launched the right conversation, many argued, but there is a need for further work to continue to curb health care costs.  “We don’t want to see nationalization of the medical system,” Massey said. “We need to attract the best and the brightest to the medical field.”

To watch the entire Boulder Chamber Health Care Policy Roundtable discussion, visit our Facebook page.

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