Rural Task Force Stresses Access To Health Care

The job of the task forces advising the state’s 208 Commission is to analyze the four health care reform proposals being considered and tell the commission how each one will affect the group they represent (business, providers, rural areas or vulnerable populations). The first order of business is figuring out how to do that.

The Rural Task Force met Thursday and members acknowledged they will have to work to keep their discussion on track.

“We can’t pontificate about what might be possible or what isn’t possible because that’s not our assignment. That’s the commission’s assignment,” said task force co-chair Matt Heimrich. “Our role is to look at those four plans and give our input on how those plans are going to affect rural Colorado.”While evaluating the four proposals selected by the 208 Commission, Rural Task Force members will look at how each one addresses key issues such as insurance mandates, reimbursement for providers, plan administrations, Medicaid reform, long-term care and funding.

The goal of the 208 Commission is to develop a health care reform strategy that will provide more people with health insurance while lowering overall health care costs. But Rural Task Force members are quick to point out that having heath coverage does not mean having access to health care. Many rural areas in Colorado are experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians, specialists and even pharmacies. Also, many rural residents are on Medicaid, and often the few doctors around won’t accept new Medicaid patients because the reimbursement rates are too low.

Over the next several weeks, the Rural Task Force will determine how the proposals address these issues. The meetings are open and time is made available for public comment. The next meeting will be an Aug. 22 teleconference. Find the complete schedule here.

Rural task force members are:

Jack Berry, MD (Wray) – Physician and board member of the Colorado Medical Society and COPIC Insurance

Sue Birch (Steamboat Springs) – executive director of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

Jan Carroll (Gunnison) Certified Nurse Practitioner and Certified Nurse Midwife

Ron Davis (La Junta) – executive director of La Junta Economic Development

Bern Heath (Durango) – CEO of Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center

Matt Heimrich (Ordway) – Action 22/Healthy 58

Steve Holloway (Denver) – director of statewide public health programs, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Steve Hurd (Grand Junction) – executive director of Marillac Clinic

Russ Johnson (Alamosa) – CEO of San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center

Cindy Lau (Pueblo) – executive director of Step Up oral health program for Medicaid recipients

Kristy Reuss (Grand Junction) – professor at Mesa State College School of Nursing

Steve Reynolds (Glenwood Springs) – small business owner

Ricardo Velasquez, MD (Alamosa) – medical director of Valley-Wide Health Systems

Sara Will (Vail) – director of Access Vail Valley)

Kathryn Winkelman (Limon) – teacher at Limon Middle School