5 Things Colorado: Q&A w/Sen. Jim Smallwood, Early Bird rates ending, New regional HIE

It’s an odd time in COVID. Public opinion has turned gloomy, with Gallup reporting that more people are pessimistic about the future of COVID and getting the disease than are optimistic. That’s the first time since January that more folks are worried than hopeful. Moreover, 1 in 3 vaccinated individuals are now “somewhat” or “very worried” about getting COVID. Thanks for hyping that 0.1% chance, media. Hope it was worth it.

Meanwhile 20% of unvaccinated individuals are “somewhat” or “very worried” about getting COVID. Maybe 80% of unvaccinated folks are a bit overconfident here. But, for those 20% that are worried, there is a vaccine. It will keep you from getting sick, and almost absolutely keep you out of the hospital. You’ll have less worry about by getting it — trust me on this.

 

 

 

 

With help from Emily Boerger

1. Q&A: Sen. Jim Smallwood discusses plans for next session

While appreciative of the inter-party collaboration in the Colorado Senate, Sen. Jim Smallwood believes many of the Democrat-led health policy initiatives recently passed in Colorado have been “largely symbolic.” In this Q&A, he lists the expansion of the prescription drug importation program and the Colorado Option as examples of policies that he says, despite considerable time and effort, haven’t done anything to directly benefit Coloradans.

During the interim, Smallwood is developing legislation that will educate Coloradans about available subsidized coverage options. “I don’t know what it will look like, precisely, yet, but it appears that there’s sort of this massive chasm in our state where folks earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but can’t afford either the premiums of individual insurance or the associated out-of-pocket costs of private insurance…it appears to me that we need to be doing much more in our state to educate folks on the net result of purchasing subsidized policies.”

 

2. Early Bird pricing ends Friday

Early Bird rates for the upcoming 2021 Colorado State of Reform Health Policy Conference end this Friday! So, if you know you want to be with us and a few hundred of your closest friends in Colorado health care, you can save a few bucks and get signed up now to be with us on October 20th!

Speakers and attendees will be able to choose either an in-person option, or a fully integrated virtual experience. And, you can change your mind at any time based on your comfort level.

Our Convening Panel is currently reviewing and commenting on our Draft Topical Agenda, which we will release in a few weeks’ time. After that we’ll begin the process of lining up the over 60 speakers who will join us at the event! So, if you have any topics, speakers, or content ideas, we would love to hear them.


3. CORHIO and Health Current introduce new regional HIE, Contexture

State-based health information exchanges CORHIO of Colorado and Health Current of Arizona announced their long-planned joint health information exchange, Contexture, last week. The new HIE, which takes advantage of the two organizations’ geographic proximity, aims to consolidate their information to reach a broader array of individuals.

Contexture will provide health information services to approximately 1,800 health care organizations across Colorado and Arizona. Contexture CEO Melissa Kotrys says: “Contexture has the potential to serve communities as the largest health information organization in the West. For decades we have empowered providers with information on millions of unique patients and today are in a position to better serve the needs of national payers, health systems and state and federal agencies.”

 

4. Rise in COVID cases accompanied by new vaccine mandates

While nowhere near their November peak, COVID cases in Colorado have been increasing since the beginning of July as the Delta variant continues to spread. The state saw 1,026 new daily cases on August 9th – the highest daily case count since May. As of August 10th, 55% of Coloradans have been fully vaccinated.

Late last month, Gov. Polis announced unvaccinated state employees must undergo twice-weekly COVID tests, effective Sept. 20th. Pursuing stricter regulations, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced a “far-reaching” vaccine mandate last week for the city’s employees as well as the staff of nursing homes, homeless shelters, hospitals, and correctional facilities. These individuals will need to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30th.

 

5. Extreme heat impacts health of Colorado’s homeless

A recent story from CHI highlighted the disparate impact this summer’s extreme heat has had on Colorado’s homeless population. In particular, Denver recently experienced some of its most intense heat to date, threatening the health of its over 6,000 unhoused individuals. CHI Policy Analyst Karam Ahmad told State of Reform that homeless supports have historically served to keep these individuals warm during the winter, rather than cool during record-breaking heat waves.

The problem is exacerbated by Denver’s status as an “urban heat island,” meaning the city’s lack of greenery raises its temperature considerably. Along with short-term solutions like cooling centers, Ahmad said creating more green spaces can ameliorate the issue. “One way that you make those areas more livable and less hot is that you create more green spaces. I know that there are efforts in the city to plant more trees…There was an ordinance a few years ago that passed to create more green roofs to address the urban island heat effect in Denver too.”