5 Things Colorado: 2021 session, Kim Bimestefer, Rural health care

This is indeed a “dark winter,” as was predicted. But, I’m hopeful that we are perhaps at our nadir. We are 11 days away from the days getting longer. We are four days away from the likely first vaccines to distributed in the US. And, of course we are zero days away from the magic of Christmastime, Hanukah and the winter holidays.

It’s easy to get down. It’s hard to stay upbeat. It takes intention. It takes discipline. And, an optimism that can sometimes seem unfounded.

Do hard things anyway.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family! May they be warm, wonderful, and bright!





With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Legislators discuss health policy in 2021

Filling in gaps from budget cuts will be a key priority for Colorado legislators in 2021, said Sen. Brittany Pettersen, Vice Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. At our State of Reform conference, Petersen said Gov. Polis’s state budget plan lacks necessary funding for behavioral health care. While Democrats hope to work on bills related to health equity, access, and cost, Pettersen said legislators are “still in crisis management mode.”

Rep. Matt Soper, a Republican on the House Health and Insurance Committee, said he plans on fighting any changes to rates for telehealth services made by HCPF. Soper said he has heard about plans to “undo SB 212” – a move that would “take us back to a state in time where telehealth really doesn’t get utilized.”

2. Kim Bimestefer on health care costs

The health care affordability crisis is in the private system, which means it might be time revisit the Public Option, HCPF Director Kim Bimestefer told me recently. Bimestefer noted that affordability has bipartisan support and pointed to the two leading drivers of rising costs: prescription drugs and hospitalizations.

A way to control prescription drugs costs, Bimestefer said, is drug importation. An HCPF analysis of 50 drugs found that consumers would save 63% from Canada, 78% from Australia, and 84% from France. To address a 23% spike in US employer hospitals costs from 2016-2018, Bimestefer is optimistic about the Colorado Hospital Association’s commitment to the Hospital Transformation Program (HTP).


3. CHA playbook aims to restructure rural health care delivery

The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) is out with a new playbook for re-imagining rural health care during COVID-19. The playbook includes a newly designed assessment tool for health care leaders which looks at five metrics: governance & leadership, community engagement, financial health, clinical care, and emergency preparedness and resilience. Data compiled from the tool can be shared between health care organizations.

The playbook also identifies nine challenges often faced by rural health systems and offers practical guidance for dealing with each one. Of particular importance during COVID-19 is CHA’s guidance for surveillance and risk assessment in rural communities. The playbook recommends consulting resources like the Social Vulnerability Index and COVID-19 Preparedness Scores.

4. Linking the economy and health care services

The economic impacts of the pandemic on rural health providers could cause Colorado to lose 137,000 community jobs, 99,000 health care jobs, and 11.7 million patient encounters within one year, according to Josh Neff, Vice President of Integration and Rural Health for Centura. Neff added that the state’s GDP could decrease by $277B within 10 years.

According to Neff,106 rural U.S. hospitals have closed since 2010 and an additional 673 hospitals were vulnerable to closure before COVID-19. Overall, potential hospital closures could increase 25-30% due to the pandemic. Increased funding for rural health care facilities and expanding broadband access are two solutions that could help ameliorate the strain on rural health care, he said.

5. HCPF to host Health Policy Summit

On January 12th, the Dept. of Healthcare Policy and Financing will host “an important health policy summit” with policy leaders from the Polis administration. At the event, HCPF will roll out the new edition of their “Reducing the Cost of Prescription Drugs” report, a topic which is expected to be a focus of the administration in the upcoming session. Last year’s report got a lot of attention as the session kicked off.

The event is free, but you have to register to participate. We’re helping HCPF facilitate this event and can help you get registered if you have any problems. Simply respond to this email and we’ll help to take care of you!