Health care forum focuses on solutions to rising cost

Health care is complicated, but one thing is obvious: It costs too much.

That was the consensus Saturday at the Durango Public Library where The Durango Herald hosted a forum to discuss how people get, and stay, healthy in the United States.

More than three dozen people gathered to hear from four people familiar with the health care system in Colorado, including Doug McCarthy, president of Issue Research Inc.; Guinn Unger, a member of Indivisible Durango’s health care and senior issues committee; Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health; and Allie Morgan, with the Colorado Health Institute.

Topics included what has caused health care in the United States, particularly in Southwest Colorado, to be so expensive and what state and federal politicians are doing to reduce the cost of health care.

“It seems obvious we can’t continue to pay what we do for health care,” Unger said.

Morgan appeared via video conference and talked about the momentum of health care reform in Denver. The state is working on a few bills now to help bring down the cost of health insurance, but the only one that seems to have a chance of passing, Morgan said, is a reinsurance bill that would help insurers pay off expensive claims.

Reinsurance means less risk for insurance companies and therefore lower premiums, Morgan said.

McCarthy, whose organization promotes high quality health care for all, said federal efforts to reform health care begun with the Affordable Care Act, but that law isn’t perfect. While fewer people are skipping care and more people are insured because of the ACA, it still hasn’t achieved its marquee goal of making health care more affordable.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., has proposed a bill that would give everyday Americans the option to buy into Medicaid, typically reserved for the poorest in this country, McCarthy said. Something like this could go a long way toward lower health care premiums for Americans.

Jollon questioned if the conversation about health care is the right one to have. She suggested that the conversation be shifted to focus on overall health rather than just health care. Americans spend by far the most on health care of most developed countries, but that doesn’t mean other countries don’t spend as much on health, Jollon said.

Many of the countries that have lower health care prices often invest in social programs that bolster health on a broader scale.

Dr. Kicki Searfus of Mountain View Family Healthcare agreed with Jollon that it is important to focus on all the factors that contribute to health, such as diet and exercise, rather than just on the cost of health care.

“I think health care is really important for the community,” Searfus said. “The lack of health care and cost affects peoples’ ability to stay healthy and get healthy.”

John Purser, a Durango resident who attended the forum, said he is concerned that people are not addressing the fundamental issue of consumer transparency in health care.

“I wanted to drive the conversation to transparency of cost,” he said of attending.

bhauff@durangoherald.com




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