Health Care Vitals: Denver

On Tuesday, June 20, Axios' Sam Baker hosted an Expert Voices Live discussion in Denver, digging into the state of access and affordability in Colorado.

Why it matters: 25 state and local leaders — elected officials, experts in health care, health tech innovators, and advocates — discussed solutions to challenges in health care policy and providing equitable care.

Creating policy that serves all communities 

A consistent theme throughout the morning's conversation was the importance of creating policy that could serve all communities and constituents, from individuals to businesses, rural to urban areas.

Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, State of Colorado

  • On the 360 degree view of health: "All roads lead to health...if you look at all the cabinets from Agriculture all the way up to State Veterans and Military Affairs. Every Cabinet plays some role in health... If people don't have access to food you know they're not going to be healthy...If you look at education, the further people go in school, the healthier they're going to be. If you look at the environment, [when people] don't have to live in toxic situations they're going to be healthy."
  • On creating affordability while maintaining quality: "We want to make sure that we keep in mind that health care is a three-legged stool right now. Affordability is one of the big barriers, but we can't also ignore quality. Prevention and wellness is a big part of it too."
  • On the importance of transparency in creating effective policy: "If we can pull the curtain back and try and figure out what's driving health care costs, then we can address those issues."

Axios' Sam Baker in conversation with local health care leaders.

Axios Health Care Editor Sam Baker moderating Tuesday's discussion. Photo: Danielle Lirette for Axios

Opportunities for growth

How the government and private sector could make health care more accessible for patients with varied needs featured prominently in the conversation.

Julie Reiskin, Executive Director at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition

  • On the relationship between lack of medical care and poverty: "Disrupting that is really an opportunity… It’s really hard to break those cycles."
  • On improved care for people with disabilities: "Prevention for us looks different, so it’s not necessarily that a ten dollar flu shot prevents a ten thousand dollar ER visit… But we see a lot of room for improvement in the dental space. [We need to find dental care providers] who can work on people in their chairs."

Kelly Brough, President and CEO of the Denver Chamber of Commerce

  • On the challenges of cost: “It doesn't actually get any better in any state than what you have right here [in Colorado]. And yet the cost of health care is unbelievable. And half of our residents get their health care from their employers. And what our employers tell us, regardless of size is ‘I can't afford it and my employees can't afford it.’”

Julie Reiskin, head of Colorado's Cross-Disability Coalition.

Julie Reiskin, Executive Director at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. Photo: Danielle Lirette for Axios
Melissa Bosworth, Principal at Vertical Strategies and Rural Healthcare and Non-profit Capacity Building at Culture of Health Leaders

  • On disparities in outside of major metropolitan areas: "There’s a lot more opportunity to do place-based policy...Accessibility and what that looks like is vastly different in rural communities. " Michele Lueck, President and CEO at the Colorado Health Institute
  • On where the state is headed: "I think the focus right now on cost efficiencies and affordability through everything from end of life care to telehealth services...those are things that tell the community where we’re headed in the state."

Julia Hutchins, COO of Apostrophe Health, in discussion at the table.

Julia Hutchins, CSO of Apostrophe Health. Photo: Danielle Lirette for Axios

On innovation in the sector

How to continue pushing the private sector forward in partnership with advancing policy was discussed.

Mike Biselli, President of Catalyst HTI

  • How telehealth takes advantage of the tools people already have: "Eighty-seven percent of our Medicaid population across this nation has a smartphone in their pocket...the same number of with our V.A. population as well. And then you think about what is the most widely used application on your phone? Text message. That's why CirrusMD and the team are growing so fast because they unlock the power of that very simple tool on our smartphones."
  • "With technology, the innovation is the easy part. That stuff is ready to scale. It's built. Ready to go. It is policy getting in the way of these leaders to allow for us to drive innovations."

Thank you Delta Dental for sponsoring this event.