5 Things Colorado: Election results, Looming budget challenge, Vaccine science

We are looking forward to hosting a few hundred of our closest friends in Colorado health care next week at the 2020 Colorado State of Reform Health Policy Conference! You still have time to get registered ahead of November 17th.

And, since some of the most important questions in Colorado health care are teed up on our Topical Agenda next week, we wanted to feature some of those conversations for you in this month’s newsletter.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. The election and the ACA

Just a week ago, it seemed like Congressional Democrats had a plan to save the ACA. A senior member of the Ways and Means Committee told me Democrats planned to vote to increase the individual mandate penalty at the center of the legal challenge. By re-establishing the penalty, the constitutional grounds for overturning the ACA would be eliminated, some argued. Strong wins in November, so the argument went, would make the voter mandate to keep the ACA clear.

In spite of Hickenlooper’s pickup in Colorado, without a Senate majority, Democrats are unlikely to get a vote on a new penalty greater than zero. With Justice Coney Barrett joining the court, it would seem she joins Justices Alito and Thomas in being categorically against the ACA. Justice Gorsuch is likely there, too, making four votes for a full repeal. That leaves Justice Kavanaugh as the likely deciding vote for the ACA.

Whether a full repeal is now likely or not, we’ll see. But it would seem to me that some changes to the law are coming – starting this week.


2. The state of Colorado health care and the looming budget challenge

We have lined up two great Keynote sessions at the 2020 State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference on Nov. 17th. In what she calls a “State of the State,” Kim Bimestefer, Director, Dept. of Health Care Policy and Financing, will run down the Polis Administration’s agenda for 2021. She’ll likely take up a review of the governor’s proposed budget, which was out last week, too. Expect a deep dive into the health care policy conversation coming in 2021, so bring your questions!

For the Afternoon Keynote, we will hear from Sen. Bob Rankin of the Joint Budget Committee and Sen. Julie McCluskie who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. Katherine Mulready, Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer at the Colorado Hospital Association, and Ashley Clark, Deputy Director of Health, Human Services and Criminal Justice at the Office of State Planning and Budgeting will round out the session. The group will explore some of the obstacles and opportunities for re-thinking fiscal policy in the 2021 legislative session.

3. On the cusp of a leap forward in vaccine science

This week’s news from Pfizer re-affirms the unique time we find ourselves in when it comes to vaccine science. The level of investment in a COVID-19 vaccine has created a set of circumstances that is catalyzing the science. As research moves towards leveraging messenger RNA to create an immune response to the coronavirus, this new model of immunology may scale across a range of diseases and even into improving overall wellness.

We have a smart panel to talk through these implications, including Katelin Lucariello at PhRMA, Dr. Eric France, Chief Medical Officer at the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment, and Stephanie Wasserman at Immunize Colorado. They will discuss what looks to be possible as science makes a significant step forward.

4. Colorado’s economy and the impacts of 2020

The pandemic-driven hit to the Colorado economy has been significant, resulting in a spike in unemployment and something of a “K-shaped” recovery. That has also meant a meaningful hit to Colorado’s state budget, and funding for the safety net that supports our society in our collective time of need.

Kacey Wulff, Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response, Resilience, and Recovery at the Office of Gov. Jared Polis, will join a multi-perspective panel on this topic. Josh Neff at Centura Health, Phyllis Resnick, at the Colorado Futures Center and Richard Wobbekind at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder will join her. They will review the impacts to the economy as a result of this pandemic and what it will mean for policy making in the year ahead.


5. COVID’s impacts on the commercial market

COVID has impacted employers with unprecedented challenges, while also catalyzing a number of meaningful innovations in the commercial market. These range from telehealth and digital tools to partnering with employers to assist with the new staffing realities arising out of COVID. So, how might these new approaches to care transform health care in the years to come?

To speak to this, we’ve got a stand out panel for you with Charles Ritz, President at Anthem, who will be moderating a smart conversation. He’ll be joined by Dr. Elizabeth Kwo, Staff Vice President of Clinical Data Analytics at Anthem, Holly Kast, Senior Director of HR Service Delivery at Ardent Mills, and Chris Mast, Health & Benefits Leader at Mercer.