5 Things Colorado: COVID survey, Early Bird registration, Telehealth report

Six months ago, it wasn’t clear that State of Reform would still be here today. All of our content is funded through revenue from live events. And, COVID put a damper on those. We moved to the virtual space, trying to build a platform that could foster community, collaboration and conversation. But, it wasn’t clear that folks would support us as we did that.

So, we held our breath and pressed forward.

Since then, Colorado Access, the Colorado Hospital Association, HMA, and of course our cornerstone partner, Anthem, have all re-affirmed their sponsorship and support for our annual conference! It’s support we don’t take for granted in the slightest, particularly during such an uncertain economic time.

So, thank you to our sponsors, to you our readers, and to the folks that make State of Reform a unique social utility for the health care space! We truly appreciate it.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Coloradans of color favor prioritizing public health despite economic disparities

In a new Colorado Health Foundation survey, 34% of people of color (compared to 28% of white Coloradans) have had hours cut back or wages reduced. Only 37% of people of color (compared to 47% of white people) have been able to work from home. Nevertheless, 61% of people of color prioritize protecting public health over reopening, compared to 47% of white Coloradans.

Along both racial and economic lines, the data reflects a willingness among Coloradans to prioritize public health over fully reopening the economy. A majority of respondents who have been laid off (60%) or have their hours or wages cut (54%) favor delaying reopening if it means protecting lives. Twenty-seven percent of overall respondents are concerned that they will lose their health insurance while 54% of people living on low income are concerned.


2. Early Bird registration open!

We’ve opened Early Bird registration for our 2020 Colorado Virtual State of Reform Health Policy Conference! This year’s event is coming up on November 17th. The cost of hosting the event is likely to be more expensive in the virtual space, if you can believe that, but we’ve lowered the registration price significantly, particularly for the Early Bird rate. That rate is only open until September 25th, however, so sign up while you remember!

Our Convening Panel is reviewing and commenting on our Draft Topical Agenda now, which we will release to you in the next week or so. But if you already know that you want to join us on September 30th, be sure to take advantage of the discounted price and register today!


3. Capretta: Tallying federal pandemic support for the health sector

Since the onset of the pandemic, the federal government has directed more than $400 billion to the health sector to shore up its finances and enhance its capacity to care for COVID and non-COVID patients, according to an online financial tracking service assembled by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB). It is not certain if this cash infusion signals cost control has been shelved for good, or whether it might return once the crisis eases.

Pre-COVID, the talk in health policy was of lowering prices for hospital care and prescription drugs, and, more generally, on steering resources away from a sector widely viewed as wasteful and overbuilt. DC State of Reform Columnist Jim Capretta took a look at this rapid shift and what the implications might be of the country placing even more of its limited annual income into the health sector, at the expense of other priorities.


4. Report: Telehealth visits in Colorado were on the rise before COVID-19

We know increases in telehealth utilization is a primary story out of this COVID era. But, this was trending upwards ahead of COVID, too. Telehealth utilization in Colorado per 1,000 members increased from 57 to 75.9 (33%) for commercial, 28.9 to 55.1 (91%) for Medicaid, and 125.7 to 142 (13%) for Medicare Advantage members from January 2018 to February 2020, according to a new report released by the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC). Between January 2018 and February 2020, $31 million in payments to providers were made in relation to over 390,000 telehealth services provided to Coloradans.

Mental health conditions led the way as the most frequent reason telehealth was utilized (33%) followed by respiratory conditions (12%) and counseling (7%). CIVHC notes that telephone services for established patients were reimbursed by commercial and Medicare Advantage plans prior to 2020, but were not reimbursed by Medicare fee-for-service and Medicaid until April and March 2020, respectively.


5. Putting summertime presidential polling in context

FiveThirtyEight’s latest average national polling shows Vice President Joe Biden with about a 7.5 point advantage over President Trump. But if we look back at presidential elections over the past 40 years, a lot can change between August polling and election day results. Remember when that July 1988 Gallup poll showed Michael Dukakis with a 17 point lead over George H.W. Bush? Jimmy Carter was ahead in August in 1980. Hilary Clinton was ahead in August in 2016.

The point is that things will move in this election quite a bit in the next 54 days between now and the election. One pollster recently estimated that about 10 percent of voters are likely undecided. Moreover, some Trump-friendly demographics are difficult to reach and there aren’t enough large sample, quality polls that succeed in including these voters. This creates quite a bit of volatility in the models as things as we look ahead to the next nine weeks.