Rep. Lang Sias
Caption +

Lang Sias, chosen as running mate by Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton, supports an innovative plan for fixing health care.

Show MoreShow Less

It’s health care, stupid. Colorado’s gubernatorial candidates should lead with it.

Though not seen much in punditry of late, health care remains the top policy worry throughout the country.

An annual Gallup poll in March revealed “health care” as the highest concern for the fifth year in a row. It found 55 percent of Americans surveyed worry “a great deal” about health care. Crime and violence, federal spending, and gun policy follow at 51 percent each. Drug problems trail at 45 percent.

Democratic nominee Jared Polis, in his words, believes “passionately in universal health care.”

His campaign website pitches a plan of "Medicare for all,” and a “Single-Payer System” throughout a consortium of western states.

That is a brave pitch, given that Colorado voters trounced single-payer health care by nearly 80 percent less than two years ago.

Polis declares his support of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act as “among the proudest chapters of my career.”

A Magellan Strategies poll of likely 2018 voters finds enthusiastic support for Obamacare won’t do much. Among Coloradans, 48 percent oppose the law and 47 percent support it. Among unaffiliated voters, 48 percent support the health care act and 45 percent oppose it. That means Colorado can take or leave Obamacare, and it won’t inspire an election outcome.

Republican nominee Walker Stapleton will be wise to keep his opponent’s support of “single-payer” government health care for all in the forefront.

Polis means well but mostly talks about health care in terms of readjusting third-party payer schemes. That’s like addressing a perpetual food shortage with more food stamps, rather than food.

For better health care access at lower prices, we need more health care. We need market infusion, causing a surplus of innovative providers competing for patients — whether paying with government assistance, insurance, or out of pocket.

Stapleton on Wednesday announced state Rep. Lang Sias, a former Navy Top Gun pilot, as his running mate. Sias stands out as the rare politician who seems to understand health care from a perspective of supply, rather than reallocation of demand. The two should devise a simple message of more and better health care for all.

Sias co-sponsored House Bill 1365 this year to increase “investment in primary care.”

This bill was not about redistributing coverage from one demographic to another, based on grievance status or need. It wasn’t about promising health care for all with paper certificates that cause soaring deductibles and other forms of rationing.

Imagine we had a crisis of inaccessible, unaffordable bread. This bill would address the problem by directing investment into bakeries, not just certificates that buy bread if one can find it.

The bill is full of language to ensure more care, not just more insurance chasing an insufficient supply of doctors and nurses. Example:

“A primary care system with adequate resources would ensure delivery of the right care, in the right place, at the right time.” In other words, let’s have market response to demand.

The bill directed the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to gather and report data on primary care spending by all third-party payers. The state would regulate reduction in wasteful spending and practices, and “direct resources to the patient and the practice level that expand the capacity of the primary care system.”

Key phrase: expand the capacity.

Finally, someone with a vision to create more care and not just coverage on paper. Legislators didn’t pass it, but voters may have a different view. Unlike politicians, they don’t answer to health care lobbyists. Properly communicated, a plan for health care surplus could resonate across party lines.

Health care is the prize in the fall election, regardless of noise about Russia, abortion, and President Donald Trump. Another repackaged promise of new insurance scrip won’t likely win hearts and minds. Consumers aren’t happy with Medicaid, private insurance, or the notoriously dysfunctional Veterans Heath Administration. We have regulated, redistributed, and bloated them for years. Despite that, health care remains our highest concern.

Competition and supply provide the key to better care, easier access, and lower prices. Candidates with plans for a consumer-friendly, supply side disruption can win their elections.

The Gazette editorial board