Kelly Sloan, The Business Times
The entire agenda for the Club 20 fall meeting focuses on a single issue: federal health care reforms that soon will be fully implemented.
“This will be the first time that we have dedicated a full meeting to one topic. We are doing so because the issue is of such critical importance to Western Colorado and our members,” said Bonnie Petersen executive director of Club 20, a coalition of businesses, government entities and individuals in Western Colorado.
The agenda for the meeting, planned for Sept. 7 at Two Rivers Convention Center in downtown Grand Junction, includes presentations on the implications of federal health care law on small businesses, the new health care exchange in Colorado and ways to improve the health care system.
The agenda reflects in part the results of community forums Club 20 conducted throughout the region over the past year. The forums in turn stemmed from a grant to the Club 20 Foundation to promote an access to health care program.
The forums focused on four aspects of health care: access, cost, quality and personal responsibility.
“We did 26 meetings in 26 communities,” Petersen said. “Our goal was to find out what works, what doesn’t, and get some ideas of how health care could be improved. We know that whatever happens with a piece of legislation, it is never perfect the first time through.”
Comments at the forums and from member surveys were narrowed down to some of the biggest concerns of all, Petersen said. “One thing we heard a lot was about adequate access to mental health care and also access to dental care in many of our communities.”
Other concerns included access to transportation to health care providers for an aging population.
A major issue was uncertainty over the Affordable Care Act, federal health care reform legislation better known as “Obamacare.”
“Folks told us, ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen with the ACA.’ And there were also many questions about the Colorado health care exchange and related issues,” Petersen said.
The fall meeting in Grand Junction will feature Patty Fontneau, executive director and chief executive officer of Connect for Health Colorado, the new health insurance exchange.
“Considering that the Sept. 7 fall meeting is taking place less than one month before the exchange goes on line, we thought that it would be a good opportunity to use the meeting to answer questions about it,” Petersen said.
Since many small business owners remain confused about the effects of the ACA on their operations, the fall meeting also will feature a presentation by Jennifer Pierotti, lead health care policy analyst for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, titled “What Small Businesses Need To Know.”
Petersen said that could be a lot. “Many small businesses that have tried to make sure they have less than 50 full-time employees in an effort to remain exempt from new regulations requiring the providing of health insurance to their employees may not be exempt after all.”
The determination will depend on a formula taking into account full and part-time employees, she said.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican from Colorado’s 3rd District, will deliver the keynote luncheon address. In addition to health care, Tipton will offer an update on a variety of issues affecting Western Colorado, Petersen said.
The focus will return to health care following lunch with a presentation on the expansion of Medicaid health care benefits in Colorado. Dr. Jay Want, chief medical officer of the Center for Improving Value in Health Care in Denver, will discuss ways to improve the health care system.
The fall meeting will better position Club 20 to create health care policy statements, Petersen said.
“A one-size-fits-all solution out of Denver or Washington is not what we need in Western Colorado,” she said. “Mesa County is held up as a model across the country precisely because our system did not come out of a one-size-fits-all matrix.”
The Club 20 executive committee and board of directors are scheduled to meet starting at 9 a.m. Sept. 6. A number of resolutions will be considered, among them a resolution to oppose Amendment 66. The ballot initiative will ask voters to raise state taxes nearly $1 billion annually to fund Senate Bill 213, an education measure enacted by the Colorado Legislature.
At 5:30 pm Sept. 6, Club 20 will host its annual chuck wagon steak fry at Cross Orchards Historic Site at 3073 F Road in Grand Junction.
The Club 20 fall meeting is set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 7 at Two Rivers Convention Center, 159 Main St. in Grand Junction. Admission is $25, which includes lunch. To register or obtain more information, call 242-3264 or log on to www.club20.org.