13 February 2008

Denver Post vs. the Governor

What is it with the Denver Post and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter?

I'm even seeing this when I basically agree with the criticism. Today it's a good health care story about a 53-year-old guy with seizure disorder who can't get insurance. Me, basically, except I've managed to keep my coverage.

Cover Colorado said they'd insure the guy for $500 a month. Only $100 more than I pay. The one private insurer who agree to take him on had a plan that cost $650. Pretty standard, if you're talking about decent coverage for someone with pre-existing conditions. And how many of us reach 50 without a few?

Katy Human, their health care reporter, writes:
While some Coloradans can't afford health insurance and others have inadequate coverage, Sullivan falls into another problem group — people who are generally healthy and middle-class but can't easily get insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions.

Colorado lawmakers, who promised last year to make health reform a priority this session, are rapidly backing off health-reform ideas after realizing it would cost roughly $1 billion to get insurance to the state's 790,000 people without it.
She didn't mention the fact that Health Care for All Colorado's plan would save the state $1.4 billion annually, and that people like this guy with the seizure disorder would be covered -- but again: Pretty standard fare.

Then comes this quote that provides the pullquote and jump tag that the paper uses. It's from the guy's wife:

"When a government cannot respond to the needs of the people, then there is a real problem," Patty Sullivan said Tuesday. "Gov. Ritter is not our friend on this."

What? It's a great quote, and I agree with the basic premise -- politicians are not providing the leadership that they could on this. Ritter himself told me in front of a crowd that the time isn't right, that the pols need us to do more educating. Standard fare, fair enough. Probably even right by many measures.

So on the one hand, I agree that the governor, as the highest elected official in the state has a special responsibility to lead. On the other hand, the Post really viciously attacked Ritter for his support of unions. So I wonder.

Ritter has a press conference today on health care. He referenced cost-shifting the other night on a public television call-in show, a misleading diversion from real solutions. Reducing cost-shifting due to the uninsured has very little potential for saving money under health insurance mandate schemes. If Ritter goes in that direction it would be a great disappointment.

The last part of Human's article was great. It referenced the phased approach to single-payer that Rep. Claire Levy of Boulder hopes to introduce.
Sullivan said she's pinning hope on the few state lawmakers still interested in universal coverage, including Rep. Claire Levy, a Democrat representing parts of Clear Creek, Gilpin and Boulder counties.

Levy said she is looking to introduce a late bill to start building a universal health insurance system in the state by creating an agency to draw up a benefit package and calculate costs.

Eventually, a single-payer system would probably need voter approval.

Startup costs could be high, as much as $15 billion by one estimate, though a nonprofit insurance program would lead to savings for most Colorado families, businesses and health care providers, Levy said.

"I keep hearing people repeat as if it's a received truth that the voters won't pass it," Levy said. "But I hear the same people saying they support a single-payer system. And businesses — especially small businesses."

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