On Wednesday I was privileged to attend the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative’s (CCHI) Christmas party at the Alliance Center next to the downtown Tattered Cover Bookstore on Wynkoop across from Union Station. In addition to being one of the nicest of the Christmas parties I have attended this season, featuring many of the nicest people I had a chance to meet this season, I was able to better understand the very serious subject of America’s healthcare crisis and those good souls whose mission it is to seek better and more widely available healthcare for all Coloradoans.
Now 10 years old, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative defines its mission as ensuring “barrier-free access to quality health care for all Coloradoans.” When asked what exactly the term “barrier free access” meant (as it could seem to apply to wheelchair access as much as anything else), CCHI states that “barrier free,” indeed means any barrier, including financial. When I asked if that, in fact, means advocacy for universal health care, spokespeople for CCHI will admit that while that is something they are for, they would rather not use those terms and keep the more confusing “barrier free” mission statement.
Fear of using the term “universal health care,” or “universal access to health care” no doubt stems at least in part to the rhetoric advanced by opponents of Health Care Reform during the mid-term elections. That rhetoric appeared to successfully link those terms with more perjorative terms such as “Obamacare” or socialized medicine. Indeed even the passage of the current health care reform bill, has made CCHI more relevant than ever, even as it has made its mission more less clear cut.
While CCHI does not feel that the court decision which declared a portion of the healthcare bill unconstitutional will derail its implementation unless the Supreme Court agrees, the healthcare bill will do little to help most uninsured Coloradoans until at least 2014. In the interim CCHI, which conducts a lobbying campaign at the Colorado statehouse (Colorado State Representative Elizabeth McCann from House District 8 in Denver was in attendance) has to concern itself with bills that have considerably less impact than the national healthcare bill.
One thing that CCHI does to help Coloradoans without health insurance is provided by CCHI consumer advocate Christina Yong. Christina, who can be reached at 303-839-1261, refers uninsured Coloradoans to State and county programs, that, although far from perfect, may be able to assist with health care needs. At a time when poverty rates in Colorado have skyrocketed (the Denver Post relates that an a portion of central Aurora has gone from a 6% poverty rate to a 34% rate in the past decade), the value of her services cannot be underestimated. Receiving similar information from the State government can take hours if not days. Indeed many individuals who call have been under the impression that CCHI is actually a state agency.
Otherwise, of course, an uninsured individual can take former President George W. Bush’s advice that they use hospital emergency rooms as a healthcare option. That is likely an option that will see increasing use in the future.