Health-care experts ready for ObamaCare

Lone Tree providers cite benefits, challenges of coming changes

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Representatives of Lone Tree’s three major medical providers said they’re committed to reducing costs while improving care, even as their patient load will likely increase under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

They were members of a panel at the Denver Marriott South who discussed the act during a June 12 public forum sponsored by the Lone Tree Chamber of Commerce.

The Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010, is a massive overhaul of the country’s health-care system. A major component takes effect this fall when the health insurance exchanges open, allowing people and small business owners to shop for health insurance.

Panel member Brenda LaCombe from the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange believes insurance rates will be affordable.

“We’re very excited with what we’ve already seen,” she said. “Really, the small business owner will have more options to offer their employees.”

The act also aims to reduce costs and streamline health-care delivery, an idea the representatives of Sky Ridge Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente and the University of Colorado Hospital said they support.

“Quite frankly, our industry is not something I’m proud of in terms of what it’s consumed,” said Kaiser Permanente vice president Roland Lyon, noting that health-care expenses account for about 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. “Shame on us if we can’t get our costs down.

“The worst quality care we can deliver is medicine that’s not affordable.”

Challenges lie ahead. More affordable health care likely will increase demand on providers.

“This is coming at the same time we’re talking about a shortage in primary care providers,” said Sky Ridge chief medical officer Dr. David Markenson.

It also coincides with the aging of approximately 76 million baby boomers, and obesity rates reaching epidemic levels.

“We’re all getting older and fatter and sicker,” Lyon said. “Our ‘Thrive’ campaign is to get people thinking what they can be doing to improve their health. Frankly, that’s the best way we’re going to reduce the cost of health care.”

The University of Colorado’s Dr. Benjamin Honigman, an emergency physician, said he routinely deals “with the after-effects of obesity and people who don’t take care of themselves.”

But he sees tangible evidence that may slowly be changing on a high school track near the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

“Every year, I see more and more people that are either walking or running,” he said. “These are overweight people. These are minorities, who have a historically high rate of obesity. I’m beginning to see people paying attention to this.”

University of Colorado Hospital is the newest member of Lone Tree’s medical community, opening its Lone Tree Health Center in December 2012. Kaiser Permanente is nearing completion of a large medical center in Lone Tree, and Sky Ridge breaks ground on a $117 million expansion in late June.

It’s good news for patients, panelists agreed.

“If I can give patients quicker care in their own community, the return on that investment is extreme,” Markenson said. “I wouldn’t look at the (construction) cranes that have gone up as being more expensive care. I would look at it is more efficient, affordable care.”

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