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State Leaders Participate in Forum

September 02, 2008
State leaders participate in forum e-mail to a friend | print this | link to this Contributed by: Tammy Stratton on 7/31/2008 State Leaders Convene to Build Consensus for Comprehensive Health Reform Colorado Leaders Highlight State Reform Successes, Call on National Leaders to Act Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien and other state leaders representing communities across Colorado gathered in Denver recently to address the ailing health care system and the urgent need for health reform at the national, state and local level. Hosted by the national American Hospital Association (AHA), the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the community forum highlighted successful steps that have been taken in Colorado to decrease uninsured rates, lower health care costs and improve quality of care, while keeping pressure on national leaders to achieve comprehensive health reform. At the top of the agenda were discussions about the growing number of uninsured and underinsured Americans and the skyrocketing health care costs amidst the economic downturn. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Americans rank health care near the top of their economic woes. With public support for health reform at an all-time high and with health care a key issue in the presidential campaign debate, forum participants sought to build consensus around potential solutions to the broken health care system. The community forum focused on the need for commitment and leadership in tackling health reform at the national and state level. Lt. Gov. O'Brien highlighted successes the state has seen in reforming the Colorado health care system and reaffirmed the administration's commitment to health care reform. "Governor Ritter and I have helped extend health coverage to an additional 50,000 children over the last year and a half. But it's not enough. We still have 826,000 people in Colorado and nearly 47 million Americans without coverage," said O'Brien. "Hard working families are facing the tough choices of going to the doctor or paying the mortgage. This is not the kind of health care system we envision. As leaders, we need to set aside our differences, come together and commit to making health care in the U.S.-and in Colorado-affordable, accessible and safe." With the uninsured rate hovering around 18 percent, state leaders have taken great strides to address how they can achieve comprehensive health reform, most notably with the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform. Gov. Ritter also signed several bills into law this June which aimed at expanding health coverage access. With the nation's hospitals at the forefront of the health care delivery system, AHA has helped to convene leaders from all sectors of the community. Together, they have developed Health for Life, a framework for change that emphasizes five core elements for health reform: health coverage for all, paid for by all; a focus on wellness; the most efficient, affordable care; the highest quality care; and the best health care information. "Health for Life is a framework for change. It is not a hospital health reform plan," said Kevin E. Lofton, immediate past chairman of the AHA Board of Trustees and president and CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives. "It is a set of goals and an agenda for creating better, safer and more affordable care for a healthier America. It is a launching pad for collective action at the national, state and local level." This community forum, the second in a series of AHA-sponsored forums taking place across the country, is intended to serve as a neutral platform for substantive, timely and relevant discussions about the need for reforming the health care system, particularly within the Health for Life framework. "It is critical that we have these conversations with representatives from all sectors of the community," said Maureen Tarrant, the CEO of Sky Ridge Medical Center and member of the Colorado Hospital Association Board of Trustees. "Hospitals are part of the solution, but everyone with a stake in our health care system has to contribute in order to make comprehensive health reform a reality." Leaders from the Colorado business community, which has a large stake in the health reform debate, also joined the discussion. "Providing affordable, quality coverage is not a reality for many Colorado business owners," said William N. Lindsay, III who was speaking as a board member of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. "Of course we want to offer coverage to our employees but with skyrocketing health care premiums, so many business owners simply can't afford it." Molly Markert, the director of community outreach for Exempla Healthcare and Aurora city council member, spoke on the need for health reform and protecting the underserved in communities across Colorado. "We need a health care system that doesn't leave anyone behind, especially the most needy and vulnerable in society," said Markert. "And accomplishing the goal of quality health care for all is going to take the concerted efforts of every sector - health, business, individuals and government." Health care providers also spoke about the need for health care reform from the patient care perspective. "The cost of inaction is staggering," said Jan M. Kief, M.D., the Colorado Medical Society Speaker of the House and Board Member. "An estimated 133 million Americans-nearly half of the U.S. population-suffer from at least one chronic disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis. It is imperative that we provide preventive care services and promote healthy life choices." The community forum took place on Wednesday, July 30 at the University of Denver Craig Hall Community Room at 9:30 a.m. The American Hospital Association (AHA) is the national advocate for its members, which includes 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 37,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit their Website at www.aha.org. To learn more about Health for Life, go to www.HealthForLifeAmerica.net. CHA is the statewide advocacy organization representing hospitals and health systems throughout Colorado. In serving its members, CHA provides leadership and advocacy, fosters communication, collaboration and consensus, and provides technical assistance and information about emerging tools and trends to ensure patient safety, improve performance enhance hospital efficiency and effectiveness. For more information, visit www.cha.com. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has been a leading voice for Colorado's business community for more than 150 years. With a membership that spans the seven-county metro region and includes 3,000 businesses and their 300,000 employees, the Chamber is a powerful and effective advocate for both small and large businesses at the local, state and federal levels. For more information, visit their Website at www.denverchamber.org.