Glenwood chamber forum offers voice on health reform | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood chamber forum offers voice on health reform

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The United States doesn’t have a health care “system” per se, at least not until everyone is covered, observes Tim Burns, administrator at Glenwood Medical Associates.

And that “moral issue” is the crux of the national health care reform debate, he said.

“For most of the western nations, it is a moral issue,” he said. “Other nations do not exclude people [from coverage] like we do in the United States.

“I think we have a wonderful opportunity now to change that,” said Burns, who spoke at a Glenwood Springs Chamber-sponsored forum on health care reform Thursday morning at the Glenwood Community Center. “Any type of reform we can have today is going to be a step in the right direction.”

Should basic health care coverage be extended to all? And what does reform mean for businesses?

Those were some of the questions posed to the small but engaged group of 28 local business people gathered for the forum, part of the chamber’s ongoing “Eye on the Economy” series.

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Facilitating the discussion was Teresa Tuschhoff, director of business engagement for the Denver-based Business Health Forum.

Rather than health “care” reform, the measures currently being debated in Congress would be more accurately referred to as “health insurance reform,” she said.

She pointed to statistics provided by the Division of Insurance, which show 57 percent of Coloradans obtain health insurance through their employers.

Another 20 percent of Coloradans are covered under either Medicare, Medicaid or some other government program.

Approximately 6 percent have individual insurance plans.

That leaves an uninsured population in the state of 17 percent.

Tuschhoff posed a series of key questions surrounding the issue, utilizing electronic devices for attendees at Thursday’s forum to give their answers anonymously. Though the results were hardly a scientific polling of the local community, she said it’s interesting that many of the responses were similar to those she’s gotten at other events she has facilitated.

Asked if a single-payer system – essentially Medicare-style coverage extended to all citizens – is the solution, 52 percent of those at Thursday’s forum agreed it is, while 26 percent were neutral and 22 percent disagreed with such a system.

Asked about a public option, basically a government-sponsored insurance plan to compete with private insurance, the results were more polarizing.

Again, 52 percent agreed that a public option should be offered, while 39 percent said it should not and just 9 percent were neutral.

Asked if businesses should be mandated to provide health insurance for their workers or charged a fee to extend coverage to all, 42 percent said they should while 36 percent said they shouldn’t and the remainder were neutral on the question.

“I believe in individualism,” one attendee responded. “We should all be responsible for ourselves and buy our own insurance.”

Perhaps contradicting the response to the previous question, however, when asked if the link between employment and health insurance should be eliminated, 56 percent of attendees said it should, while 22 percent said it shouldn’t and the other 22 percent were neutral.

Colorado is taking its own steps to reform health care, Tuschhoff said, including the formation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform and Gov. Ritter’s Building Blocks for Health Reform initiative.

Several pieces of legislation related to health care have also been passed, although one that didn’t related to creating a single-payer health insurance system in Colorado. Tuschhoff said she expects a single-payer question to come before voters in the form of a ballot initiative as early as next year.