5 Things Colorado: Conference keynotes, Panel coverage

It was such a thrill to see so many of you at last month’s 2022 Colorado State of Reform Health Policy Conference! Thanks to all who participated and helped make it a wonderful event.

Our Digital Media Specialist Alex Nelson made a wonderful “What You Missed” video that captures the sights and sounds of the memorable day—check it out here.

In this newsletter, we feature videos of the conference’s high-caliber keynote speakers, as well as coverage of some of the valuable panel conversations we had throughout the day.

Thanks so much for your support and we look forward to continuing to work with all of you!

Eli Kirshbaum 
State of Reform

 

1. Keynote videos: Kim Bimestefer, Dr. Connie Savor Price, Dr. Morgan Medlock

We were truly so humbled to host three of the Colorado health sector’s most influential leaders deliver the conference’s keynote addresses. Kicking off the day, HCPF Executive Director Kim Bimestefer gave an informative overview of all the ambitious work her department is undertaking to lower healthcare costs and improve quality.

During lunch, Denver Health Chief Medical Officer Connie Savor Price, MD, discussed how the health system made monumental pivots to virtual care and promoted health equity during the pandemic. Behavioral Health Administration Commissioner Morgan Medlock, MD, closed out the conference by summarizing the groundbreaking work her and her team have been pursuing to transform the way Colorado delivers behavioral healthcare.

 

2. Health-focused lawmakers look back on 2022 legislative session

During the conference’s legislative panel, Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet discussed her work with HCPF to distribute the $450 million given to the state for behavioral health through ARPA. This funding was directed to efforts like a temporary rapid mental health response program for youth, creating more behavioral health beds, and building out the state’s behavioral health workforce, among other initiatives.

Sen. Jim Smallwood said he’s proud of his passed legislation to educate consumers about the health coverage options available to them, and expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the Colorado Option and the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. Looking ahead to next year’s session, Sen. Rhonda Fields and Michaelson Jenet both say legislation to improve Black maternal health will be needed. Fields said she will also prioritize food and housing insecurity, as well as broader health equity promotion.

 

3. Experts discuss Colorado’s nation-leading behavioral health reform efforts

During the “Spurring innovation through behavioral health reform” panel, Behavioral Health Administration Deputy Commissioner of Operations Summer Gathercole discussed the state’s innovative work to reform behavioral healthcare delivery. She said the BHA has monthly meetings with leaders from 13 different state agencies to strategically allocate funding and develop a unified, multi-agency approach to the provision of behavioral health services.

Kiara Kuenzler, CEO of the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, discussed how the Center’s Porchlight Family Justice Center is reforming its approach to care by making it more responsive to the observed needs of community members. Another panelist, Dr. Melanie Rylander, Behavioral Health Medical Director at CCHA, said her organization’s new app that supports lonely/isolated individuals by keeping them connected to support staff led to a 21% reduction in loneliness among users.

 

4.  HCPF officials talk road ahead for Medicaid

On our “The future of Medicaid” panel, HCPF Health Disparities & Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer Aaron Green emphasized the Medicaid program’s ongoing commitment to health equity. He outlined the department’s 4 health equity focus areas: vaccination, maternity and perinatal care, behavioral health, and disease prevention. He also called for increased diversification of Colorado’s healthcare workforce.

Office of Community Living Director Bonnie Silva said over $200 million in ARPA HCBS funds was used to increase direct care worker wages from $12 to $15 per hour, and called for more individuals to join this critical workforce. “One of the things that I would really like to do as Medicaid Director is trying to figure out how we get into the community more,” newly appointed Medicaid Director Adela Flores-Brennan told the audience.

 

5. Stakeholders offer status update on Colorado Option implementation

During our “A check-in on the Colorado Option” panel, CAHP Executive Director Amanda Massey—a longtime critic of the policy on behalf of health plans—said the 15% administrative spending cap for Colorado Option plans is unfeasible and difficult for carriers to meet. According to Massey, DOI isn’t giving plans adequate spending room to accommodate the Colorado Option’s administrative requirements, like the establishment of culturally competent provider networks and annual premium rate reductions.

DOI Deputy Commissioner Kyle Brown emphasized that the federal premium tax credit savings captured through the policy will help drive affordability for consumers. “[It] will provide an opportunity for undocumented folks, who have not been able to compare and purchase plans in the marketplace, to do so and to have subsidies for folks up to 150% of the federal poverty level,” added Colorado Consumer Health Initiative Policy Manager Isabel Cruz.