5 Things Colorado: Early Bird Registration, Behavioral Health Administration, Q&A w/ Amanda Massey

While DJ is out trying to get in a well-deserved vacation, I’ll be bringing you this edition of 5 Things We’re Watching. I’m the managing editor here at State of Reform where I have my eye on health care and health policy in Colorado and a number of other states.

Feel free to email me any feedback or tips on what you think we should be covering!


Emily Boerger
State of Reform

1. CAHP’s Amanda Massey on future of Colorado Option

In a recent conversation, Amanda Massey, executive director of the Colorado Association of Health Plans, told State of Reform she believes the Colorado Option bill – which Polis signed into law in June – will “flounder” because a similar initiative in Washington State “was more expensive, you didn’t have a lot of uptake, and then the legislature had to come back and make changes to the policy.

During the interim, Massey says CAHP is going to closely monitor the stakeholder process of the Colorado Option’s development, as well as the impact of other recently-passed legislation that impacts health plans. She also plans to be involved in the Polis-supported effort to revive SB 85 – a failed bill that would have required an actuarial analysis for any coverage mandates in the state. “What we’ve seen is a trend, in the legislature, of a goal of saving people money on health care, but passing a number of bills that are contrary to that goal.”


2. Early Bird Registration now open

Early Bird Registration is now open for the 2021 Colorado State of Reform Health Policy Conference coming up on October 20th! It’ll be a hybrid event, with an in-person option and an integrated virtual experience, so folks can choose how best to participate based on their comfort level.

Our Convening Panel will meet in the coming weeks to talk though the issues and topics that will be teed up for discussion at the event. So, if you have any topics, speakers, or content ideas, we would love to hear them. And, if you already know that you want to join us in October, be sure to take advantage of the discounted price and register today!


3. Work underway to establish BHA

Since Gov. Polis signed HB 1097 into law in April, Colorado has been at work developing a plan to operationalize its new Behavioral Health Administration. Robert Werthwein, Director of CDHS’s Office of Behavioral Health, recently offered State of Reform an update on the project’s status, which right now is primarily focused on gathering input from stakeholders and state personnel.

“This is a large undertaking in a quick amount of time, and we want to get all of the voices heard…We have to work together across all different state departments and with the community stakeholders to make this successful,” says Werthwein. The state is also inviting members of the public to provide their input. Per HB 1097, CDHS must present a finalized implementation plan to the legislature by Nov. 1, 2021. The BHA must be established by July 1, 2022.


4. Partnership looks to “restructure” health landscape

Last month, the Purchaser Business Group on Health and the Colorado Purchasing Alliance entered into an agreement to negotiate contracts between Colorado employers and select health facilities. The partnership’s goal is to improve the value of care for employees in Colorado and reduce the overutilization of unnecessary medical services. The two organizations will conduct a thorough evaluation process to determine which health facilities in the state are best-equipped to contract with employers.

Gov. Polis supports the agreement, emphasizing in a statement that it offers an opportunity to gain business from national employers. Robert Smith, President of CPA, says the partnership will “fundamentally restructure” Colorado’s health care landscape. “We want the employers to be proactive purchasers, and not just passive payers,” he told State of Reform.


5. Three lessons from Vox’s story on physician mental health

In a 4,700-word piece titled “The doctors are not all right,” Vox explores the structural barriers in place that make it difficult for doctors to access mental health care. The article highlights stories of physicians who have died by suicide, COVID-19’s impacts on physician mental health, and efforts to make it easier for doctors to access care. Here are our three lessons learned from the piece.

Colorado is one of 33 states where medical license boards ask doctors to disclose mental health conditions or treatments. These types of questions, states the article, can act as a barrier for physicians who want to receive behavioral health treatment but fear it will put their jobs in jeopardy. Vox Correspondent Julia Belluz writes: “Nearly 40 percent of physicians reported being reluctant to get care or treatment for a mental health condition because of medical license repercussions, according to a survey published in 2017 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.”