Jensen Werley, Denver Business Journal
As the Omicron variant continues to ramp up, health care lobbyists and experts are anticipating another legislative session where health policy is dominated by Covid-19.
“Everything stems from Covid. We are very much still in the midst of crisis when it comes to Covid. We’re still over 90% utilization and our workers are continually in crisis. What really settled in for me, as we round the corner into 2022, is that no one is prepared for the reality that Covid has been around for almost two years really, with no end in sight,” said Katherine Mulready, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the Colorado Hospital Association.
In 2021, Colorado passed the Colorado option, Colorado’s version of a public health care insurance option, and passed the Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which sets up a board that will set upper payment limits for certain drugs.
In 2022, Mulready said she’s not anticipating massive proposals like that. Rather, she expects the focus to be on several issues that were already trends before Covid-19 and have only become exacerbated because of it.
“We’re working in collaboration with a number of other stakeholders on a workforce package that addresses comprehensively what we think we need to look at in the health care workforce. We lost a significant amount of the workforce, and we had a shortage before. We can’t wait to address this issue,” she said.
Behavioral health is another space that has only gotten increasingly important, and CHA will be working with stakeholders to establish a community-based health system rather than one that relies on emergency rooms and prisons to provide mental health care.
“It’s not like a tidal wave when there’s one big bill,” Mulready said in reference to how she would characterize this upcoming session. “But it’s still choppy water.”
Much of 2022 will also consist of monitoring and implementing some of those big-ticket items passed in 2021.
The Common Sense Institute said that they’ll be monitoring how state and federal legislation approaches address cost.
“Federal policy changes regarding price transparency, initiated under President Trump and continued under the Biden administration, have potential to resolve a huge problem in the healthy functioning of the market not just in Colorado, but across the country,” said Chris Brown, Common Sense Institute Vice President of Policy & Research. “The public option, on the other hand, could have significant impacts on the small group market, and it will remain to be seen if there are any spillover impacts, in the form of higher prices, onto the commercial payer plans.”
The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is looking toward a policy that increases health care access and affordability, among other issues. That includes implementing the public option and expanding coverage to uninsured populations.
“The lasting impact of the global pandemic and concurrent economic crisis are leaving increasing numbers of Coloradans without health care coverage,” CCHI wrote in a statement. “This exacerbates conditions under which people were already struggling to afford quality coverage. Latinx and Black/African American Coloradans are suffering from higher infection and death rates from COVID-19, highlighting the racial disparities in our health care system and emphasizing the need for more affordable coverage options to address structural racism. Rural Coloradans are also being disproportionately impacted by health coverage affordability challenges and the economic impacts of the pandemic. CCHI supports policies that create more affordable health coverage options for Coloradans.”