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Here's What's at Stake for Health in the Election

Did your Halloween involve more campaign commercials than candy bars? Election fatigue is real, and many Coloradans are ready for the stream of attack ads and flyers to end.

I live in Senate District 22, which features a showdown between Democrat Brittany Pettersen and Republican Tony Sanchez, and I’m pretty sure I’ve received enough mailers about their campaigns to wallpaper my house. A lot is at stake in the midterm election, so let’s get this show on the road!

Here’s what the CHI team will be watching closely after tomorrow’s 7 p.m. voting deadline.

Gubernatorial Race

After eight years under Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado is poised to welcome a new leader to the governor’s mansion. Republican Walker Stapleton and Democrat Jared Polis both emerged from crowded primaries in June, and either promises to take our state further from the middle. Check out CHI’s analysis of their health policy priorities. Will 2019 feature a debate on single-payer health care or waivers of Medicaid rules and the Affordable Care Act?

Worth noting: Both lieutenant governor candidates — current state representative Lang Sias (Stapleton) and former state representative Dianne Primavera (Polis) — have experience with health policy issues in the legislature and would help shape decisions in the new administration. Primavera would be especially influential. She’s a former staffer at the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) and served until recently as CEO of Susan G. Komen Colorado. A breast cancer survivor, she has taken a hard line in the past with insurance carriers.

State Legislature

Control of the legislature comes down to the Senate. Republicans have held a one-seat majority for the past four years and are fighting to maintain that narrow advantage. Democrats hope a “blue wave” generated by opposition to President Trump will turn the tide in their favor. About one-third of the 17 state Senate races are considered especially competitive, and two of them appear neck and neck: Senate District 20 (Jefferson County), where Rep. Jessie Danielson (D) is running against Christine Jensen (R), and District 24 (Adams County), where Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R) is defending her seat against Rep. Faith Winter (D).

Whether next session sees lots of health policy action or little depends on which party emerges as the majority in that chamber. If Democrats add control of the Senate to their firm control of the House, expect to see the return of many potentially consequential health bills that failed in the Senate over the past few years. If Polis is governor, expect to see many of those proposals signed into law.

Ballot Initiatives

Colorado voters have pored over long ballots this fall, including 13 statewide measures ranging from transportation funding to lowering the minimum age for serving in the legislature. While there are few direct connections to health among these measures, CHI is keeping a close eye on Proposition 112. As our recent analysis states, the proposal to increase the setback distance for new oil and gas wells underscores the need for evidence-informed health policymaking.

In addition, we’ll be watching the local Caring 4 Denver initiative, which would implement a sales tax increase — one of several on Denver residents’ ballots — to fund behavioral health services. If successful, supporters say it will provide $45 million annually for mental health treatment; suicide prevention efforts; and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.

About a dozen other communities from Larimer to San Miguel County are voting on similar measures to fund behavioral health. If Colorado won’t augment these services at the state level, backers say, counties can and should do it on their own. There’s that “can-do” Western spirit for you.

Watch our website for post-election reactions, or better yet, join us at CHI’s annual Hot Issues in Health conference on December 6-7 to debrief in person. Only a few tickets remain. We’ll bring the commentary and leftover candy; you bring opinions about the hottest issues in Colorado health policy.


Follow Allie Morgan on Twitter @CHI_AllieM

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