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CHI: Guiding Colorado communities through national health reform

May 31, 2011

Whether you’re for or against national health reform, one thing is certain: It’s going to mean big changes for many Americans and for the nation’s health care workforce.

For an estimated 32 million Americans, including 540,000 Coloradans, reform means access to health insurance through a combination of Medicaid expansion and subsidized individual insurance through state-based exchanges.

Theoretically, insurance for this influx of newly covered individuals will provide them with needed care, which may have been previously unaffordable or unavailable. Numerous studies find that care provided early to mitigate or prevent health problems (preventive care) is more cost-effective than care provided later. There are numerous provisions in health reform that encourage doctors and patients to engage in preventive care practices to improve health and decrease costs.

Unfortunately, health reform has no provisions that will magically create new doctors and nurses to care for these newly insured individuals. Yes, there are provisions for workforce development programs to train and deploy more primary care providers in the medium and long runs. A lack of short-term supply, however, might mean that the newly insured individuals will have trouble getting care and that the existing health system infrastructure could be temporarily strained.

But never fear: CHI is here.

CHI’s staff has recently undertaken efforts to model this scenario in Colorado. How many Coloradans will be newly insured? How much more care will they utilize once insured? How many primary care providers will Colorado have when these individuals receive insurance coverage? Our aim is to help communities across Colorado anticipate and accommodate expected changes in the supply and demand of health services, not only to ensure that newly insured individuals can receive timely and appropriate care, but also to ensure that the currently insured can continue to receive timely and appropriate care as well.

To discuss and share efforts to address this challenge, CHI will host a special symposium this fall. We’ll partner with organizations across Colorado that are implementing innovative ways to deal with various aspects of health reform. We’ll discuss our findings, and allow these organizations to highlight their projects and activities in a collaborative effort to produce a well-rounded and educational symposium. Be sure to check back soon for details!

What are some topics you would like us to cover at our fall symposium?