Mayor Hickenlooper & Councilwoman MacKenzie Kick-Off Study to Assist Uninsured Workers
Councilwoman Helps to Fund the Project
(DENVER) Mayor John Hickenlooper and City Councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie are helping Denver Health launch a task force to explore ways to extend health insurance to Denver’s working uninsured. MacKenzie has provided $50,000 in seed money from funds left in her city council special revenue account to Denver Health for this study.
The project will build on Denver Health’s small business product effort funded by the Kellogg Foundation. Denver Health has convened a task force that includes representatives from the health insurance, provider and business communities, as well as Mayor Hickenlooper’s office and Denver City Council.
“The growing numbers of uninsured workers is an urgent societal problem, and one that Denver simply must address,” MacKenzie said. “More and more employers, both small and mid-size, are finding it difficult or impossible to offer health insurance coverage for their employees.”
“An affordable health insurance product could help Denver attract and retain employers frustrated by rising insurance costs that prevent them from offering this benefit to their employees,” said Hickenlooper, who is having ongoing health insurance-related discussions with organized labor and the business community.
MacKenzie said the task force has been created to investigate ways for Denver Health, the city, and its employers to work together to create an innovative solution to this problem.
“The biggest problem for many businesses is that the stand-alone model for health insurance is simply not affordable,” she said. “And, here in Denver, we have an integrated and comprehensive delivery system at Denver Health that many other cities do not have. Denver Health’s clinic system makes the idea of an insurance product feasible.”
Patricia A. Gabow, M.D., chief executive officer and medical director at Denver Health, said the number and percentage of people covered by employment-based health insurance dropped again in 2002, and the number of Americans that are uninsured has risen to 43.6 million.
“In 10 years, the number of workers who received health insurance from their employers fell from 63 percent to 45 percent,” Gabow said. “And among America’s poor, only 53 percent of those working are covered. This City-Denver Health initiative to seek a local solution for Denver’s working poor is very timely. We applaud the City’s willingness to support this endeavor.”
Lack of affordable health insurance was one of the issues identified in the recent Jumpstart Denver forums, hosted by Mayor Hickenlooper and City Councilman Doug Linkhart, to gather community input on ideas to help Denver’s economy.
“The small businesses involved in our forums cited health care costs as one of their major concerns,” Linkhart said.
MacKenzie’s special revenue fund was created from money saved from her city council operating budget over the past four years. Council members typically spend these funds on projects to help their districts and the city.
In addition to Councilwoman MacKenzie, Mayor Hickenlooper’s staff and Denver Health officials, members of the task force include Annie Wohlgenant and Kim Hacker, Rose Community Foundation; Barbara Yondorf, Yondorf and Associates; Barbara Crawford, Stomberg, Cleveland, Crawford & Schmidt; Judith Glazner, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; Michael Kleinberg, La Mancha Associates; Barbara Ladon, Child Health Plan; Liz Leif, Leif Associates; William Lindsay, Benefit Management and Design; and Ralph Pollack, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.
The Denver Health system would be the primary provider for the proposed program.
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