There’s probably a temptation among some recently elected officials to go after the low-hanging fruit, to accomplish their easier goals first to show voters that they’re able to get results and build political capital needed to tackle more difficult issues in the future.
Then there’s Gov. Jared Polis. With a little more than a month before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year, Polis boldly proclaimed that “this is going to be the heath care session” during a conference call with this editorial board last week.
Polis and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera then highlighted an extensive list of legislative initiatives they’re supporting to drive down the costs of health care for Coloradans. Some already have been approved, but many others still are pending as the session enters its final weeks.
In the short term, the new administration’s goals include increasing transparency related to hospital costs, creating a “reinsurance pool” to handle high-cost claims, using new negotiating methods to drive down medical bills and lowering the cost of prescription drugs by allowing some medication to be imported from Canada.
In the longer term, Polis and Primavera said they want to improve access to healthy foods, raise vaccination rates, encourage more people to seek preventative care and launch a state-run health insurance program.
Polis said many of the pending legislative initiatives have bipartisan support. As they should. For example, it would be hard to argue against the merits of Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar’s proposal to prevent patients from unknowingly being charged for out-of-network insurance costs.
Polis also said he supports a bill by Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo that would allow paramedics to expand the types of medical assistance they can provide that don’t necessarily require higher-cost doctors or nurses.
But other initiatives in the package may prove to be more challenging. For example, there are some critics of the drug importation plan who question whether foreign drugs would be as safe and effective as those produced within the United States.
The long-range goal of creating a state-run medical insurance program will be particularly tricky. Not only is there the issue of how the state would pay for such a plan, but also there could be unintended consequences such as private businesses opting to drop their insurance plans if the state decides to offer a government-run alternative.
Some elected officials have found health care reform to be a political nightmare that has done their careers more harm than good. However, Polis thinks that because he made health care a focal point of his successful campaign for governor, voters have given him a mandate to tackle the issue.
He may be right about that. He certainly hasn’t shied away from attacking the challenge from multiple fronts. It remains to be seen how many of the legislative initiatives he’s supporting will win approval of both the Senate and House of Representatives this year.
One thing that shouldn’t be said of Polis is that he ignored one of his signature issues after the election was over. His efforts to date are both noticed and appreciated.