By Gena Akers
We’ve come a long way in health care. As Lewis Lapham writes in “The God in the Machine,” “Together with the cornucopia of drugs for all seasons (Zoloft, Lipitor, Botox, Viagra, etc.) the American health care shopping mall now offers expensive diagnostic tests (CT scan, bone scan, spinal tap, etc.) that allow upward of 6 million Americans to enjoy the benefits of high-priced bodily home improvements — titanium knees, Peruvian kidneys, two-hour erections and a sunny disposition.”
Not for everyone, though. Without affordable and comprehensive insurance or an understanding of state and national safety net programs, thousands of people in the San Luis Valley postpone their needed check-ups, dental appointments, prescription refills… all in the name of cost.
Fortunately, health care is changing and the high cost is being addressed. Just look at Grand Junction. Founded in 1896, St. Mary’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction has made national news for lowering costs and improving care. They did it by covering everyone and emphasizing primary care. By getting their physicians to focus on preventive care and chronic disease management, Grand Junction sees better health outcomes among its patients.
Our elected officials and leaders have been working for nearly 100 years to create a national health care system similar to what Grand Junction residents currently enjoy. They may not agree on how, but the immediacy and need for change is clear.
In Colorado, we have worked hard to solve our own problems. Before federal health care reform was passed, two initiatives secured Colorado’s place as a leader in creative thinking on health care. In 2008, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform presented recommendations to Colorado’s General Assembly on how to expand health coverage and decrease health care costs for Colorado residents.
A year after the recommendations were presented, our elected officials passed the Colorado Health Care Affordability Act, which among other things, expanded Medicaid for both children and adults.
Since then, Colorado has shown a continued commitment to expanding coverage and decreasing costs. Our kids can more easily get the care they need, when they need it (Medicaid and CHP+ expansion as well as the 2011 Child-Only Health Insurance Plans Law), and in 2014 all Coloradoans will be able to shop for and compare health insurance plans in the same way they shop for and compare plane tickets.
You should feel confident that no matter what the Supreme Court decides in June on federal health care reform, you live in a community and state that is committed to improving health care for you and your family.
Gena Akers is the project coordinator for SanLuisValleyHealth.org, an education and advocacy website dedicated to increasing access to health for all residents in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. SanLuisValleyHealth.org is a project of the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center and funded through The Colorado Trust. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.