By Christie McElhinney
Is health care in Colorado working? Should every child have health insurance? Do you feel like you have a say in your health care? You probably have seen or heard these questions on TV, radio, in newspapers, on websites or even on a few billboards and passing buses.
This campaign – Project Health Colorado – is a public forum that provides Coloradans with the opportunity to ask questions and get information about health coverage and care in our state, and offers the opportunity to be part of a positive conversation about our health care system outside the political fray. This media campaign builds on the grassroots mobilization efforts of 13 grantee partners to increase awareness, understanding and support for improving health coverage and health care in our state. The campaign is funded by The Colorado Trust, with additional support from the Colorado Health Foundation.
Project Health Colorado is different from typical ad campaigns in that it doesn’t prescribe a specific way to improve the health care system. Rather, it invites all comers to share their views on what’s working and what’s not, and encourages them to provide their best thinking on how to improve the ability of Coloradans to get the care they need to be healthy.
Initial interest in the campaign has been significant. In the first two months, there have been more than 57,000 hits on www.ProjectHealthColorado.org, with more than 11,000 votes cast on the questions posed. Perhaps most inspiring are the many thoughtful solutions that have been offered and the discussion that’s ensued. These run the gamut, with about half of the solutions recommending various versions of a Medicare-for-all system, such as the suggestion Shelley C. from Denver offered: “Improved Medicare for all with one risk pool. Publicly-funded care, everyone in, nobody out, with the focus on wellness.” And about a quarter of those who have offered solutions suggest the opposite – that government needs to get out of health care, such as Tye P. of Denver who wrote: “Remove all government from our health care system, return it to the private sector, tort reform and interstate commerce … simple free market will drop prices immediately and drastically once the government is out of the health care business.”
Because of the questions we’ve posed through Project Health Colorado, The Colorado Trust has also been asked a series of questions by supporters and skeptics alike: What do you hope to achieve through this campaign? What’s your real agenda? What’s the “it”?
Our agenda – which we call our “vision” – is to achieve access to health for all Coloradans. A BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) if ever there was one, we know that our ability to help expand health coverage to more of the 829,000 uninsured Coloradans and to increase access to affordable, high quality health care will truly require all hands on deck. We believe that a critical component of this lies in increasing awareness and understanding among Coloradans, and engaging more people in efforts to improve health coverage and care.
Again, we aren’t advocating a specific path by which to achieve this vision – “it” isn’t that simple; the complexity of our health care system requires multiple strategies and solutions. Whether we’re interested in small fixes or major health care reform, more of us outside the for-profit and political arenas need to be engaged in the conversation. Too many people don’t know where to turn for information or how to voice their views, and they don’t believe their voice will matter even if they do speak up.
Project Health Colorado is a new type of public forum offering a unique way for people to ask questions, get answers, suggest solutions and support efforts that assure more Coloradans can get the coverage and care they need to be healthy. By working together, we believe we can move Colorado closer to achieving this commonsense goal.
Christie McElhinney is vice president of communications and public affairs at The Colorado Trust.