Mental Health Partners - Health-care reform uncertainty remains

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Health-care reform uncertainty remains

November 5, 2012

By Beth Potter November 1, 2012

BOULDER - Health care - how patients get it and how much they pay for it - still appears to be in flux both locally and around the nation.

There's a focus on reducing local emergency-room visits and hospital readmissions, brought on by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to area health-care industry leaders.

Plans also are afoot to create "patient-centered medical homes" - meaning more services may be available under doctors' roofs in the future, leaders said at the Boulder County Business Report's latest CEO Roundtable. The Thursday morning event was held at the law offices of Berg Hill Greenleaf & Ruscitti in Boulder.

Cost-cutting measures were a major theme for participants at the roundtable. For example, Clinica Family Health Services collaborates with Boulder Community Hospital to try to keep patients at clinics for nonemergency needs and out of more expensive hospital emergency rooms, said Pete Leibig, president and chief executive at Clinica Family Health Services.

Boulder Community Hospital is aligned with the industry-leading Mayo Clinics in Minnesota, Florida and Arizona to do group purchasing of supplies, said David Gehant, chief executive at Boulder Community Hospital. The hospital also expects to consolidate all of its acute-care services at its Foothills campus at 4747 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, in the summer 2014 time frame, Gehant said.

Mental Health Partners uses electronic medical record information to be more responsive to its patients, said Bill Myers, director of development and public information at the nonprofit group. Mental Health Partners also collaborates with schools across the Boulder Valley, clinics and day-care centers, among others, he said.

As for insurance coverage, companies search for cost-saving plans. Denise Dougherty, director of employee benefits at Taggart & Associates Inc., doing business as Taggart Insurance in Boulder, says she tries to help them navigate changes coming down the pike.

Moving to a universal health-care system also could help save the health-care industry money, said Ivan Miller, a Boulder psychologist and president of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care. The group expects to have a report in the next month showing the economic benefits of such a plan. Miller said a component of the plan is a credit card-size product with a person's individual records on it.

Health-care services for poor people are expected to expand as the number of people covered by Medicaid expands under tenets of the Affordable Care Act, some of the participants said. An estimated 800,000 Coloradans are uninsured, and many of them will be "Medicaid eligible" under new rules, for example, Myers said.

"Certainly if we get more Medicaid enrollees, it will increase our population," Myers said.

Clinica Family Health Services has received federal grant money to upgrade and expand to meet potential needs of such Medicaid patients, Leibig said. The five-clinic nonprofit group includes Boulder and Lafayette clinics as well as north Denver clinics with additional dental-care services.

A new rule to become effective in January 2014 under which companies with 50 employees or more must "pay or play" by offering insurance to their employees or pay a fine, may hurt the national economy, Dougherty said. Nationally, some retail and restaurant chains are reported to be cutting hours below 30 per week to avoid being affected by the new Affordable Care Act rule, she said.

"There are lots of questions and lots of misinformation out there," Dougherty said. "We try to inform people in the community about health-care reform."

Health-care leaders at the roundtable were hosted by George Berg. Hy Harris and Ryan Sells also attended from sponsor Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner & Hottman PC, an accounting firm with an office in Boulder.


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