By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Congresswoman Diana DeGette joined U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer yesterday at Denver Health to highlight the impacts of federal health care reform legislation.
The visit to Denver Health comes as Colorado voters must decide this November whether to repeal portions of the legislation. Libertarian leader Jon Caldara is sponsoring a ballot initiative that would exempt Coloradans from being “forced” to carry health insurance or pay a penalty.
But DeGette, D-Denver, and Hoyer, D-Md., said health reform is helping, particularly when it comes to safety-net hospitals and community health centers. Denver Health is considered Colorado’s primary safety-net hospital.
“The Affordable Care Act dramatically decreases the number of uninsured Americans, meaning that no longer will a significant portion of our population use the ER as their primary care physicians,” said DeGette. “This will allow emergency rooms, such as the one at Denver Health, to more quickly provide their outstanding care to the individuals that need it most, while those with less pressing concerns can seek refuge in our burgeoning community health centers.”
Supporters of the reform effort point out that Denver Health alone is expected to spend more than $350 million this year to treat the uninsured.
Community health centers are expected to receive increased funding under the health care overhaul, and are expected to double their capacity within the next five years.
But Caldara believes Coloradans will reject what he and other opponents of the legislation call “ObamaCare,” named because President Obama so passionately pushed for the overhaul of the nation’s health care system.
Caldara says the majority of Coloradans agree that people shouldn’t be “forced” into buying health care. He submitted more than 130,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office earlier this month to get the measure on the ballot.
“We’re going to make Colorado a sanctuary state for quality health care,” Caldara said recently. :How they can argue that Coloradans should not have choice in their health care, in that somehow it’s good to force people into health care plans they do not want, is mystifying to me.”
But Dr. Patricia A. Gabow, chief executive of Denver Health, said yesterday that the federal legislation will help her hospital to bring better care to all of its patients, especially indigent patients.
“Once uninsured families receive coverage, they will be able to see actual primary care physicians for their ongoing well-being and their periodic illnesses like colds and sore throats,” said Gabow. “This will help the entire Denver Health system care for all our patients, by ensuring they always receive the right care, at the right place, at the right cost.”