Let’s just get right down to it: Health care is a human right. Treating an illness or injury should never be a luxury afforded only to the wealthy few who can afford it. Your income, location, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or current state of health should never be a barrier to receiving affordable, high-quality health care. I believe passionately in universal health care, and I always will.
As with so many other issues, politicians in Washington will stop at nothing to make life harder for Coloradans for the benefit of special interests. In Colorado, we have an opportunity to aggressively reduce the costs of care, expand access to the services people depend on, and put Coloradans first.
Too often, politicians talk about health care as if it begins and ends when you get sick or need to visit a doctor. I propose a bolder path.
We need to give more Coloradans the opportunity to build lifelong healthy habits and have access to services that reduce the chances of ending up in a hospital room or a doctor’s office to begin with. This approach puts the everyday health of our citizens at the forefront of our policy-making while ensuring that when the unimaginable happens, no Coloradan experiences the fear of not being able to afford the treatment they need, or that their loved one needs, to get better.
Here is my vision for a 21st-century health care system in Colorado:
Universal Coverage for Colorado
Medicare for All
Way back in 2008 when I announced my first campaign for Congress, the common thought among political professionals was that supporting single-payer health coverage would end your political career. But, I’ve always put people over politics and, in that spirit, championed single-payer health care in that race. I’m happy to report ten years later as a congressman running for governor that I’ve put those words to action time and time again in pushing for Medicare for All legislation in Congress.
This idea is now gaining momentum across the political spectrum. Not only is Medicare for All a good deal for customers, who will be able to see a wider network of providers at a lower cost, but it’s good for small businesses, too. By taking the burden of administering employee health care off the shoulders of employers, businesses can focus more on their core products and services. Providers benefit due to the favorable reimbursement rates, and because there is no profit motive for this plan, administrative costs go down and efficiencies in care are increased.
Perhaps most importantly, this plan takes the guesswork out of seeing a doctor in your network and navigating different levels of health care plans. It simply works for everyone the same way that Medicare works for our seniors.
Keeping up the fight for universal coverage will take tremendous advocacy and effort from our next governor. Should I have the honor of serving Colorado in that capacity, I will build upon Governor Hickenlooper’s work in advocating for comprehensive health care solutions at the regional and federal level and will fight for Medicare for All as the best solution to our rising health care costs. It’s the option that works for patients and providers, reduces costs, and improves the delivery of care.
Pioneering a Western Single-Payer System
Western states across the political spectrum suffer from many of the same issues plaguing Colorado, such as rising health care costs and premiums that price rural Coloradans out of access to their provider of choice. In the absence of leadership coming from Washington, we need to think outside the box and lead the charge ourselves to bring universal health coverage to Colorado.
I will work to develop partnerships with other western states to pioneer a groundbreaking regional multi-state consortium to offer a common-payer system in the West to reduce prices, expand coverage, and improve the quality of care.
With states partnering in cost sharing, development, and implementation, we can provide coverage to more people at a lower cost than a state implementing such a system alone would be able to do.
We can turn this idea into reality by working in a bipartisan way on a shared set of strong legal
standards for implementing the system so that no citizen is treated unequally in getting insurance coverage or is denied coverage due to the complexity of differing standards. By removing moral hazards and perverse incentives to deny coverage, we can put people over politics and be a regional model for the rest of the nation.
Providing Coloradans More Health Care Options
We should leave no stone unturned in our effort to reduce the overall cost of health care for citizens in our state. Colorado shares jurisdiction over Medicaid with the federal government and has experienced enormous success in expanding coverage to thousands of Coloradans through the Affordable Care Act. Working with President Obama to pass the ACA is among the proudest chapters of my career. Unfortunately, there are still too many Coloradans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but struggle to afford the cost of private insurance. This is particularly evident in the mountain communities of Colorado.
That’s why, as I pursue universal coverage, I also support more public and non-profit options on the exchange, including resurrecting a customer-owned co-op, exploring the possibility of opening the state employee benefit plan and Medicaid as options on Connect for Health Colorado, and bringing non-profit and government risk pooling to more Coloradans.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
Imagine your employer telling you that you can’t visit a loved one in the hospital or threatening to fire you if you need treatment for a serious illness. Whether you are a CEO or an hourly worker, no Coloradan should ever be asked to make the false choice between employment and health.
Making sure that every Coloradan has paid family and medical leave will be a priority for our state when I’m governor.
This policy is tremendously important to leveling the economic playing field for women. Paid family and medical leave helps us close the wage gap and provides all workers with equal opportunities to assume the role of caregiver, regardless of gender — free from outdated and unfair societal expectations often placed solely on women.
This policy is good for business, too. By providing employees the peace of mind to tend to life’s most important moments, we will be able to improve productivity and employee retention while attracting employers to the state.
Bolstering Colorado’s Health Infrastructure
Colorado must prepare to bolster our existing health care infrastructure to withstand President Trump’s endless attacks on the successes we’ve had as a state. Having worked on health care issues for the past decade, I know how we can make sure our state is well-positioned to remain a great place to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
From providing flexibility for municipalities and counties to tackle substance abuse issues and recruit providers, to developing a nimble network of providers in rural areas, to winning the war on women’s reproductive rights, I believe the next decade is critical in establishing Colorado as the leader in the nation on health care progress.
You can count on me to always be bold in identifying and pursuing creative, attainable innovations in our health care system:
Rural Solutions & Food Insecurity
- Invest in deployment of mobile health care clinics in rural and distressed urban areas by partnering with towns, counties, providers, and insurance companies.
- Create special health districts, similar to Park County’s, to allow towns to invest in building permanent clinics for residents. These clinics can then be rented to providers at a low-cost to bring high-quality, full-service medical care to rural Colorado communities.
- Develop partnerships with supermarkets, health-focused foundations, and public transit agencies to refurbish unused buses, for example, and turn them into mobile fresh food markets in food deserts.
- Expand the Rural Colorado Venture Capital Fund to work for the public good by investing in cutting-edge and data-based solutions to rising health care costs and to incentivize entrepreneurs to open markets to combat food insecurity in food deserts.
- Promote entrepreneurship opportunities for young farmers in farming, ranching, and food delivery in underserved local markets through the Agricultural Workforce Development Program.
Wellness and Physical Activity
- Work with school districts to ensure that children are receiving quality physical education and that these activities are never restricted as punishment.
- Ensure that students with disabilities are granted equal access to a quality physical education.
- Adopt best land-use practices that improve the walkability and bikeability of Colorado towns and cities and ensure that points of transit correspond with the location of recreation centers.
- Expand coverage for gym and health-club memberships in insurance plans.
- Repeal the outdated and Big-Tobacco-friendly law that prohibits local communities from raising their own tobacco taxes without being forced to surrender revenue from the state’s tobacco tax.
Reproductive Care and Reproductive Justice
- Use the position of Governor to center the voices of women of color and create a task force to identify and address the systemic barriers to reproductive health for women due to economic, racial, ability, and immigration-status factors and propose corrective legislation and rule making.
- Make Colorado a more family-friendly state by fighting for equal-pay policies and ensure that workforce protections are in place that allow women to seek the care they need when they need it.
- Fully fund, and make permanent, the Long-Acting Reversible Contraception program, which has succeeded in reducing teen abortion rates by 64 percent in Colorado.
- Ensure women are able to engage in pregnancies that are healthy and safe for both them and the child, including being free from environmental pollution, such as water contaminants, air toxins, industrial development pollution, and more.
- Colorado will never equivocate in our battle to protect a woman’s reproductive freedom and decision when to begin a family.
Mental Health and Confronting the Opioid Crisis
Health Care Cost Transparency and Reducing Drug Costs
- Improve support for Colorado’s state-of-the-art All Payer Claims Database and conduct a system-wide audit of the database, cross-referencing other publicly available data to help identify additional health care savings and implement improvements to data collection.
- Improve transparency of prescription drug costs by requiring pharmaceutical companies to publicly disclose development, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution costs to ensure patients are paying a fair price.
- Cut down on prescription drug price gouging by requiring pharmaceutical companies to justify exorbitant price increases that vastly outpace inflation, and penalize companies that put profit over patients.
- Demand the federal government allow our state to import prescription drugs from Canada.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for young Coloradans. We will work alongside policy makers, advocates, and educators to create suicide-prevention plans; to add administrative positions in Colorado schools to identify risk factors of suicide; and to coordinate suicide prevention services for students and parents.
- Improve the ability of school-based health clinics not only to conduct mental health assessments, but also to deliver treatment to students who need help.
- Lead the nation in recognizing that human beings deserve equal treatment and opportunity, no matter their physical or cognitive abilities. Everyone will be afforded the full protections of their civil rights in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Evaluate the current system of state and local resources for delivery of care and treatment for Coloradans with intellectual, developmental, physical, and acquired disabilities and identify areas of improvement in services, agencies, and state departments.
Confronting the Opioid Crisis
- Work with departmental leadership in enhancing collaboration between physicians, pharmacies, and other medical professionals to adopt best practices from the Colorado Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) project to prescribe safer medications and improve care in our emergency rooms and hospitals.
- Ensure that funding from the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program reaches communities by engaging with local governing bodies and police departments to share best practices in diverting low-level drug offenders to treatment rather than jail.
- Needle exchanges are often the first point of contact for Coloradans suffering from opioid addiction and are the stepping stone to receiving treatment. We will use the resources of the state to coordinate foundational and grant funding opportunities to help those participating in needle exchanges access supportive and effective treatment services.
- Provide Colorado communities latitude to experiment with solutions for treating people currently suffering from opioid addiction, and work with local police departments to adopt enforcement measures focused on harm reduction.
- Increase the number of school-based health clinics in rural and urban Colorado that are able to offer treatment for addiction.
- Work alongside Colorado’s marijuana industry to identify funding opportunities from marijuana revenue to invest in detox beds in areas of Colorado most impacted by the opioid epidemic and to expand pilot programs that use marijuana revenue to assist physician assistants and nurse practitioners in training to treat opioid overdoses.
- Protect access to legal alternatives for pain management, like Kratom and medical marijuana.