Colorado Voices Can Shape Better Healthcare

By Carl Clark, MD,
President & CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver

As a physician and as the CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver, I know that there are problems with the healthcare system. We have to address: rising premiums, reduced choice, and out-of-pocket costs. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has its flaws, the proposed healthcare bill coming from Congress is not the answer. Coloradans have an opportunity to be a leader in creating a national healthcare system that works for everyone. This is true for three reasons.

First, we are very well positioned politically to lead the way. Senator Cory Gardner was one of the 13 senators who worked on the new healthcare bill. Senator Gardner continues to have an important voice going forward with the bill released on Thursday morning. As the Senate prepares to vote on this plan, he has a chance to honor his commitment to protect coverage and stability for Medicaid expansion individuals and families. Considering how hard the bill would be on these families, he can show Congress that Coloradans don’t go back on their word.

Second, we are national leaders in innovating ways to address homelessness, mental illness and healthcare. Coloradans have risen to the challenge by leveraging private investment, strengthening partnerships between law enforcement and mental health services, and increasing health insurance coverage to benefit our families.  We look for ways to do better – to be stronger, more efficient, and more compassionate. We don’t give up.

Third and most importantly, we don’t ignore what we do well. When we get something right, we use it to build an even better approach. One important example is healthcare. While it is far from perfect, supporting the ACA and expanding Medicaid has been a good choice for Colorado. We are confident that we are on the right track, though more work still needs to be done.

ACA and Medicaid Expansion Good for Colorado

The ACA and Medicaid expansion have been good for Coloradans. We are generally healthier due in large part to the ACA. Since 2013, more than half a million Coloradans have gained access to care they could not afford before. Nearly 400,000 individuals from Medicaid expansion alone now have coverage. Also, the Colorado Health Foundation found that the expansion resulted in 31,074 new jobs in Colorado, thus adding $3.8 billion to our state’s economy.

Early indications are that the cuts in the Senate plan are as deep as in the House bill. If the Senate bill passes, Colorado taxpayers would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. Unless we raised taxes, hundreds of thousands of Coloradans would lose access to the healthcare they need, including those who are seeking treatment for opioid addiction. This is not an option for the people of Colorado.

Coloradans are not used to taking the easy way out. Nor are we ones to give up and take the first proposal that comes our way. In addressing the challenges that face our state and our country, we must keep working for a solution that works for everyone. We must stay true to our values of innovation, strength, and compassion. Now is the time to use our experience to lead the conversation on healthcare in the Senate. Now is the time to support Senator Gardner in honoring his commitment to preserving Medicaid in the upcoming vote on the Senate healthcare bill. Please call his office right now to voice your support for better healthcare.