News Nuggets: 29 July 2009

Dug up fresh, daily.

ALL EYES ON GRAND JUNCTION: As negotiations over health care reform get down to the nitty gritty, national attention has turned to Grand Junction, where the decades-old Rocky Mountain Health Plans model keeps treatment quality high and costs low. A recent study found Mesa County health care among the most efficient in the country, with patient costs as little as one-third what’s paid in more expensive markets.

While noting a prominent Grand Junction health care executive has been “fielding dozens of calls from the media, policy wonks and reform experts,” and that “CBS News is on its way; so is PBS,” The Denver Post’s Michael Riley doesn’t mention what attracted all the attention to the sleepy town on Colorado’s Western Slope in the first place. About two months ago, The New Yorker’s Atul Gawande wrote a lengthy and much-discussed article comparing Grand Junction with McAllen, Texas — one of the most expensive and least efficient health care markets in the country.

Anyone hoping to untangle the cost side of health care reform would do well to read Gawande’s article. Others might want to listen to a podcast where Gawande discusses his visit to McAllen. Helpful background info: this interactive Dartmouth Atlas map displaying how much different communities pay for health care.

COLORADO SCORES HIGH ON STIMULUS DISCLOSURE: A watchdog group says Colorado does the second-best job in the nation informing taxpayers about economic stimulus spending. Good Jobs First rated every state’s transparency with stimulus bucks, ranking only Maryland higher than Colorado. Find out how Colorado is stimulating the economy here and check out this map showing exactly where Colorado-bound Recovery Act dollars are going.

POSITIVELY PENRYESQUE: Republican gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry posted a video to his campaign site featuring a couple minutes from his launch rally in Grand Junction earlier this month. Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels finds someone who calls the whole thing “Reaganesque.”

FOCUS ON THE MARITAL BEDROOMS: Newly installed Focus on the Family president Jim Daly joins the “On Faith” community of religious personalities blogging via The Washington Post and Newsweek with an inaugural post that explains “why marriage is universally and fundamentally about male and female.” Daly acknowledges how dangerous it is to take this radical stance, noting that he has friends who’ve been harassed “for no other reason than they took a position contrary to the homosexual activist agenda,” but boldly presses on and explains why it’s the government’s job to protect the “sacred precincts of marital bedrooms.”

Also check out Daly’s personal blog here. His latest entry raises a lot of questions — but stops short of answering them — over whether Michael Vick should play professional football again.

HEATH SURGERY SUCCESSFUL: State Sen. Rollie Heath says he’s feeling great following his surprise announcement Tuesday afternoon that he would be undergoing outpatient esophageal cancer surgery later that day. Heath, a Boulder Democrat, was a candidate for governor in 2002 and won election to the Legislature last year. After stepping aside for the day as chairman of the Interim Committee on Long-Term Fiscal Stability, Heath headed to the University of Colorado Hospital at Fitzsimons and checked out by Tuesday evening.

“I’m feeling great,” Heath said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “I’m ready to get back to work, and I’m feeling very positive about the success of the surgery.” He said he plans to return to the Capitol on Friday for a meeting of the Business Personal Property Tax Task Force.

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Ernest Luning

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