Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ritter making progress on health care reform?

I've not hidden my frustration with the governor for seemingly punting on his pledge to reform health care in Colorado and find coverage for the 770,000 uninsured Coloradans. In the past 2 years Ritter has essentially adopted a wait and see attitude, banking on a new Democratic President to bail us out of this mess. The governor did expand some coverage for Colorado kids but given his campaign promises we expected much more than nibbling around the edges. It's been a point of great frustration for me personally and others as well. I was first drawn to Ritter as a candidate because I sincerely believed he understood the depths of our health care crisis and the effect that that crisis has on seemingly greater economic and social issues. I personally worked very hard to get the governor elected and was deeply involved in the campaign, transition and the first legislative session of the administration. His failure on health care has always been more than a simple policy failure, I've felt that the governor failed me and many of his supporters personally.

Well now it looks like we may finally be seeing the governor make some headway on this issue. Today's Rocky reports,

Roughly 200,000 Coloradans could be added to public insurance rolls under a new hospital fee proposal that could revive Gov. Bill Ritter's stalled health care reform effort.

Hospitals would pay a per-patient fee to the state, which would be used to win federal matching funds. The new money - up to $600 million a year - would expand eligibility for publicly funded health insurance programs, allow some people to buy into Medicaid and increase reimbursements for doctors and hospitals that treat Medicaid patients.

The governor's office and the Colorado Hospital Association continue to negotiate a fee, but association leaders are on board with the concept, CHA President Steven Summer said.

"This is an initiative of monumental proportions," Summer said.

This is the kind of action that many of us expected in January of 2007. The governor should be applauded for finally taking a significant step towards his campaign promises on covering the uninsured. I'm not sure what has finally triggered this but hopefully it signals a new day in the governors office - one where we seed decisive leadership as opposed to simply competent stewardship.

To be sure the plan is still piece-meal, it will cover just over 25% of the total uninsured in the state. Given the governor's hesitancy in the past though to take any significant steps towards covering the uninusred this counts as a significant step forward.

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