Any health care idea that reduces costs, expands coverage and improves outcomes is something Jared Polis said he would be interested in pursuing as governor.
“Dianne and I,” Polis said, speaking with his running mate Dianne Primavera on Tuesday at Durango Joe’s on College Drive, “won’t rest until we get to universal health care and reduced costs, but we are living in a political world, too.”
He said that under the current medical insurance system, the people who are suffering are the unemployed, self-employed and small businesses.
For any change in health care insurance to be politically viable, Polis said it would have to show the majority of people who receive health insurance from their employers, and who are largely satisfied with the status quo, that they too would see cost savings.
“We have to show we can do it for less,” Polis said.
The key to providing lower cost health insurance, he said, is to create the largest pool possible to give the state or a consortium of multiple states the power to negotiate for better prices with medical and pharmaceutical providers.
One idea Polis mentioned would be expanding Medicare to provide a bigger pool in an effort to bring down insurance costs.
“Medicare can negotiate because it is a large pool,” he said. “Five or six states in a consortium could create a bigger pool to negotiate for savings.”
As governor, Polis said he would examine any action he could take administratively to address price disparities and to lower costs in health insurance. He also said he would lead a legislative effort to change the current health insurance system to reduce costs, increase coverage and provide better health outcomes.
He also said he would work with anyone who has an idea that would lead to better health insurance.
State Rep. Barbara McLachlan asked if the high cost of health insurance on the Western Slope compared to the Front Range could be addressed.
Polis said the high costs are a result of the state setting up various regions with separate pools for health insurance. Instead, he said, a statewide pool or a consortium of states would help lower Western Slope costs.
Polis spoke to a crowd of about 100 people.
“I wanted to hear what he has to say about health care,” said Charlotte Deters of Durango. “I support universal health care, and I wanted to know what that looks like in his eyes.”
Asked if the ticket would support a single-payer, universal health care system, Primavera said: “Single-payer and universal coverage is so stigmatized right now that you won’t hear us call it that, but we’re headed that way.”
Affordable health insurance, beyond its importance to individuals’ health outcomes, is an important economic issue, Polis said.
Creating more affordable health insurance, he said, would attract businesses to Colorado and serve as an inducement for businesses to attract employees.
The candidate, who will face Republican Walker Stapleton in November, spoke in Durango on a health care listening tour of the Western Slope that also included stops in Grand Junction, Delta, Ouray and Silverton.