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Health Care for All

A Colorado Plan for Health Care Action

Header image by Ryan Hoffman on Unsplash.com
Header image by Ryan Hoffman on Unsplash.com
By Ryan Hoffman on Unsplash.com

MY PLAN

IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH CARE RESOURCES

HEALTH CARE FOR ALL

Health care is a human right. Since 2010, Colorado has made significant reforms that have expanded access to health insurance for hundreds of thousands of people. Despite this progress, sharply rising costs have kept quality health care out of reach for many families. Lack of access to affordable health care is an obstacle to wellness and economic mobility. It creates costly societal burdens.

IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH CARE RESOURCES

One of my sons has a serious mental illness that developed at age 18 and has gotten worse over time. Finding treatment has been overwhelmingly frustrating. I’m one of a legion of parents who know the despair of trying to access mental health services in a system that seems designed for failure. The societal costs and consequences of a broken mental health care system are devastating to people, families, and society at large.

De-stigmatize mental illness

Unfortunately, shame and stigma often surrounds mental health illness and can negatively impact a person seeking medical attention. An estimated 40% of people who suffer from depression or anxiety point directly to stigma as the reason they did not seek help.[1] This does not have to be the case and change begins with each of us.

Ensure Parity

Parity for mental health not only requires equitable access to mental health care, but it also reduces stigma.[3] If mental health assessments were as common as an annual physical exam, the stigma surrounding mental health would decrease. I am excited for the time when going for a check up with your mental health provider for recent symptoms of depression is as common as getting a screening for potential strep throat.

Decriminalize mental illness and reform the M1 hold

Too often, well meaning family members are left with no other option than to dial 911 when their loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis. Law enforcement is frequently the first to respond to such a situation. The presence of untrained police officers can lead to unintended and tragic consequences. People with mental illnesses are more likely than the general public to be injured or killed when they encounter police.[5] In Colorado, people with mental illnesses are four times more likely to be jailed than to be provided the necessary services they need.[6] This must change.

Ensure effective treatment with comprehensive, wrap-around services

Currently in Colorado, when someone has a mental illness crisis, such as a suicide attempt, they are frequently put on a 72-hour hold in a hospital. While the immediate symptoms may be addressed, what the patient needs is comprehensive treatment.

Expand access with community mental health centers

Community mental health centers are currently the primary source of care for outpatient services in Colorado. Community mental health centers strive to provide primary care and preventative services. They typically offer a wide range of individual and group services to both the insured and the uninsured.[15]

Create mental health districts that geographically align with existing judicial districts

Unfortunately, when a person is arrested with a mental health condition they are often swept into a dysfunctional court system that can take months or longer to navigate. Sadly, this can lead to tragic consequences for the individual. I believe Competency Courts and Behavioral Health Districts are progressive and effective ways to solve this disastrous and unnecessary situation.

Provide supportive housing for recovery from addiction, homelessness and incarceration

Adequate housing for those in recovery from addiction, mental health disorders, or incarceration is scarce and oftentimes results in homelessness. Studies show that the longer someone remains in a homeless situation, the more costly and difficult it becomes to re-house the person.[19] It is necessary to invest in supportive housing for these vulnerable populations.

Expand mental health care options in rural Colorado

Many in rural areas face barriers such as lack of providers in the area, transportation, language barriers, or lack of insurance. A recent article from the Journal of Mental Health Counseling highlighted the tragic connection between lack of access to a professional mental health provider and an increase in suicide.[20] Access to appropriate, professional mental health care can save lives and improve the resilience of Coloradans.

Promote mental health and wellness in schools

Hundreds of thousands of Colorado students suffer from a mental health or substance use disorder.[21] This can manifest itself through anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, or disruptive behavior which can negatively impact the student in many ways including absenteeism. There are steps that the state of Colorado can take to help provide early intervention, which increases a student’s chance of academic success and improves overall health.

MAKE QUALITY HEALTH CARE AFFORDABLE

According to the Bell Policy Center’s report on middle class families, health care costs in Colorado between 2000 and 2016 increased by some 70 percent. Over the same time period, income for two-adult families rose by just 21 percent.[24]

Support Medicare for all at the Federal level

I support a single-payer health care system at the Federal level. Until that time we must make improvements to aspects of the Affordable Care Act that impact our state. We must also initiate new, common sense reforms to make health care more affordable and available for all Coloradans. Some of the solutions I will support and champion include:

Allow more Coloradans to buy into Medicaid

Colorado’s Medicaid program, Health First Colorado, is public health insurance for Coloradans who qualify. The program provides health coverage to many who otherwise could not afford health insurance, including children, pregnant women, elderly adults and adults with disabilities.

Expand and protect the state reinsurance fund

Many Coloradans are impacted by high insurance premiums, especially those in rural and Western parts of the state. By and large, consumers in these areas have seen high year-over-year price increases for more than a decade. For many Coloradans, insurance cost increases have far eclipsed any earnings increases they may have achieved.

Protect and preserve Medicaid and CHP+

CHP+ is a low-cost health insurance option for children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.

Collaborate with medical experts to increase quality, efficiency, and reach

Conversations around health care reform are often focused on insurance companies. I will seek guidance from and partnerships with health care providers to seek innovative reforms and improvements. Clearly, health care providers on the front lines have valuable knowledge to offer and the greatest incentives to bring consumers the best possible care.

Increase health care options for rural Coloradans

Colorado must improve health care access in rural and underserved areas of the state. In addition to addressing cost issues, we need to incentivize more practitioners of all types and care groups to locate in these areas.

DISCONNECT HEALTH CARE FROM EMPLOYMENT STATUS

The fundamental structure of the U.S. health care system — employer-sponsored insurance — has become detrimental and obsolete on many levels. We need to institute improvements:

Lift constraints on businesses and innovation

Big businesses have an overwhelming recruitment advantage in the current system. They can spread insurance risks across a large workforce, and thus offer greater coverage and lower premiums. The prohibitive cost of offering health insurance to a small workforce has become a foundational disadvantage to small businesses in this country, suppressing innovation.

Unlock jobs to improve options for workers

Employer-sponsored health insurance prevents workers from changing jobs or starting their own enterprises because they are worried about losing their insurance. Many Americans remain in jobs for this reason, even when making a change could improve their lives. They may have or be caring for a family member with a chronic condition. They know that purchasing health insurance on their own is extremely expensive. They know that the current Federal administration is working to end protections for pre-existing conditions.

Address wage stagnation

As health insurance premiums have increased sharply in the last two decades or so, wages have been mostly flat. Small businesses in Colorado struggle to cover the costs of health care insurance for their employees, and are declining to do so at an increasing rate. This deficiency is putting a cost burden on all segments of society, and as usual, workers bear the brunt of the problem.

Properly classify workers

Because of the high costs of providing health insurance, some businesses have skirted the law by deeming people as part-time or contract laborers with no benefits, limited job protections, and compromised workplace safety. This can result in workers needing government assistance and becomes a form of corporate welfare. Smaller business owners end up footing this cost.

Create meaningful change

In disentangling health insurance from employment status, I believe a single-payer system would enliven worker choices, innovation, and entrepreneurship by shifting the health care responsibility from businesses to society at large. A pragmatic step in that right direction is to shift away from employer- sponsored health insurance to an open exchange model.

Written by

Candidate for Colorado State House District 13

Candidate for Colorado State House District 13

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