PERRY: Walker Stapleton is crazy about getting you on Zoloft to lower health care costs

1702

Walker Stapleton thinks this health care crisis thing is mostly in your head.

Even though he’s been running for governor for several years, it was just this week Stapleton dug into that health care thing.

A lot of Stapleton’s plan reads like a high-school health-care book report. It’s predictable, and it doesn’t end well. Cut Medicaid spending. Allow for health insurance companies to cover even less than what they already do. Tell people to stay out of emergency rooms.

Huh.

Most of Walker’s report are the same old notions and potions that drove health care costs up so high that the United States Congress, that bastion of inertia, was motivated enough to create the Affordable Care Act.

And we all know how that’s working, and it’s not. Because lawmakers chickened out when it came to the most important parts of Obamacare — a public insurance option to drive down costs, and regulating prices — consumers and employers have paid dearly for Washington’s mistake.

As disappointing as Obamacare turned out, it has, however, taken the country in a much better direction. More Colorado residents at least have health insurance, and insurers can’t rip off consumers by canceling them when they need the insurance.

The problem is, it’s now unaffordable for the working poor and the middle class.

Stapleton at least recognizes that. But he says a big reason why we can’t afford insurance premiums for increasingly crappy health insurance policies is because rampant mental problems are turning Colorado residents into fat, lazy pigs boasting cholesterol and blood sugar levels that have made America what it is today.

He doesn’t exactly say that. It’s hard to tell exactly what Stapleton actually says about this or anything. He prefers small, sympathetic groups to those annoying reporter types, who just keep asking questions.

What Stapleton wrote, however, or had someone write, is this:

“A key component of (the Stapleton plan) is the integration of mental, behavioral, and physical health as part of primary care.”

Stapleton cites a 2014 American Psychiatric Association report estimating that medical costs for sedentary, neurotic Fruit-loops addicts are twice as high as the general population and accounts “for over 30 percent of total health care spending.”

It’s hardly news that American obesity and lifestyles are killing us, and killing affordable health care.

So Stapleton wants to force insurance companies to pay to get you right in the head, from the get go. This must be the new Colorado conservatism, because the conservatives here in Colorado have called this kind of thing “nannyism.”

How fun it would be to watch the bulk of Stapleton’s fans when their docs tell them they’re writing a script for Zoloft and weekly psychotherapy until they get their cholesterol under 240.

I like the idea of mental health being recognized by insurance companies for what it is: important and not akin to cosmetic surgery or needing braces.

But I would just love to hear the CEO of Aetna or Cigna announce that they’re going to put psych care on par with all medical services offered to consumers and, in fact, make psych treatment part of primary care — and also lower their insurance prices.

Now that’s crazy talk.

Someone on team Stapleton needs to help him understand that Colorado voters won’t let him just make stuff up. His health plan is nothing more than an unsatisfying word salad.

“Importantly, we must break down the silos to deliver higher quality, more integrated care, and make sure our providers are being incentivized and compensated for these services.”

Huh? Apparently Stapleton thinks $75 co-pays on top of $700 monthly insurance premiums and $7,000 deductibles so hospitals can charge $3,000 for a CT scan and tens of thousands of dollars for a tonsillectomy isn’t incentive enough. Nurses here are making about $70,000 a year. Same for x-ray technicians. Docs pull in about $200,000 a year, and much more if they own facilities such as MRI clinics or gastro clinics. Specialists make much, much more.

Consumers are being “incentivized” right out of the doctor’s office.

And if Stapleton thinks most primary care docs don’t already tell their patients their neuroses and lifestyles are killing them, he must not have been to see his own doctor lately, or he should see mine.

Conflating the need for better mental health care benefits in Colorado and a fundamentally broken health care system is the kind of thing the state is working to fight against, not turn into state policy.

That’s just crazy.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]