Colorado Governor Inauguration

Gov. Jared Polis waves after his speech during the inauguration ceremony Jan. 8 at the Capitol in Denver.

Gov. Jared Polis took bold action Wednesday to pursue lower prices and better access to health care, signing an executive order that creates the “Office of Saving People Money on Health Care.”

It’s an anti-mission creep name, never letting anyone forget the charter.

The Gazette’s editorial board has long maintained hope Polis would use his substantial entrepreneurial skills to solve big problems.

Polis introduced the world to digital greeting cards. As founder of ProFlowers, he improved the way we buy and sell bouquets and lowered the cost. Maybe he can change the way we buy and sell health care and lower the cost.

The new office, under direction of Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, will study, identify and implement policies intended to lower health care costs. It will attempt to ensure all Coloradans have access to affordable, quality care.

“Traveling across the state, we consistently heard from Coloradans about the rising costs of health care,” Polis said in a written statement.

“While we have made significant progress in expanding access to care in Colorado, there is still much work left to do to reduce costs. This Office will focus on ensuring affordability no matter the zip code.”

Politicians of all political stripes talk about lowering costs and improving access, then proceed to tweak insurance. It never works, because coverage is not care. We might just as well solve a food shortage with IOUs for food.

We can redistribute and give away insurance policies all we want. It won’t do a thing to resolve a supply/demand ratio that benefits insurance companies and health care providers. Our system is mired in anti-consumer perversions of traditional market forces, which constantly drive up prices of care and insurance. It has patients begging for service, rather than providers competing for patients.

The market constantly improves most goods and services for Americans, delivering more for less.

Health care, like higher education, operates in absentia of standard market forces and consistently delivers less for more. Polis wants plans to increase transparency in hospital pricing, to add at least one competitive element to the system.

Polis talks a lot about coverage, but stands nearly alone in also addressing the need for more innovative and efficient health care options.

Before launching the office, Polis spoke of working with Canada to import low-cost pharmaceuticals into Colorado. That’s a potential competitive supply side solution with great promise.

In his executive order, he stresses the need to “support innovation” in health care.

Innovation will be the only way to disrupt an old and dysfunctional system that underserves and overprices nearly everyone.

Let’s hope the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care breaks the mold, devising policies that promote a surplus of entrepreneurial health care businesses that compete for customers. Visualize health and wellness clinics in supermarkets, pharmacies, fire stations, churches and schools, supporting the governor’s goal of “promoting public health and addressing social determinants of health.”

The Saving People Money office could explore expanding the roles of registered nurses, perhaps allowing them to prescribe common drugs for common conditions.

Polis, a high-tech guru, should encourage the office to explore policies that might expand and improve telemedicine — bringing more medicine to consumers by smartphone, tablet, computer and gadgets of the future.

We don’t have the answers, but know they exist. So does Gov. Polis. That’s why he established a state think tank to explore, discern and invent a way out of our health care dilemma.

Make this work, governor. Be the politician known for reinventing the way we do health care.

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