26 January 2007

The 208 Commission's great notion

Grant Jones, executive director of Denver’s Black Church Initiative and a member of the Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform, says the commissioners should “embrace the notion that what we’re setting out to do is a big idea. All the commissioners need to communicate that this is big…”

But isn't that true only if the commissioners are ready to embrace more than just the notion? Don't they need to embrace real change — as every other industrialized country in the world has done?

Jones sits on the commission's communications committee, which met this morning.

The public is welcome at all commission meetings, which are listed on the commission's website. The communications committee is especially receptive to public input.

When a woman in the public seating suggested this morning that the commission use their website to collect people’s stories about their healthcare experiences, commissioner Julia Greene, director of health systems in Colorado for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), enthusiastically embraced the idea.

Most of the commission’s communication’s committee also agreed, saying such a collection of stories could provide a powerful testimony to the need to comprehensively reform our healthcare system.

While one commissioner did say they’d get so many stories the website would become unmanageable, the suggestion resulted in a palpable change of direction. Consider that earlier another commissioner, Clarke Becker, executive director of the Colorado Rural Development Council, had said that the Colorado legislature understands that the commission can’t spend all their time listening to people’s stories — the commission would never get anything done if they took the time for that.

Both statements say something about the mess that our free-market, profit-based healthcare is in.

Becker spoke about meeting with the Colorado legislature. Rep. Anne McGihon (co-sponsor of Senate Bill 208 that created the commission) is reportedly not comfortable with the commission’s plan to piece together various proposals.

It sounds as though, however, that Joan Fitz-Gerald, Senate president, and Andrew Romanoff, Speaker of the House, may not have a problem with the commission patching together a variety of band-aide solutions to the present system and calling it comprehensive reform.

Commissioners are losing sleep over fast-approaching deadlines and their final deadline of November 30 to present a proposal for comprehensive reform to the legislature. Both the governor and Senate and House leaders have agreed to wait on the commission's report before proposing healthcare bills that would change the landscape.

One commissioner said party leaders in the legislature were already having “great difficulty in controlling some of their members from proposing major healthcare proposals in this session.”

The commission will issue its solicitation for proposals to comprehensively reform Colorado’s healthcare system on February 22.

The proposals are due back on April 6. By May, the commission will choose the best three to five to send to an independent evaluating firm, which will do modeling on them to figure out their real effect on healthcare and the economy. They’ll also begin more vigorous outreach at that point to get public input.

The evaluating firms all say they’ll need six months to do the modeling.
More immediately, the commission will meet Jan. 30 and 31 for a retreat to which the public is invited. Details are on their website.

They’ll agree on the criteria with which they’ll judge the proposals at that retreat. Then the criteria go up on the website, with invitations for public comment.

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