Ganahl CU regent

Miracles happen, right here in Colorado. I should know.

Several months ago, amidst COVID quarantining, regent zoom calls, and running my recently launched start up, I got a nagging headache behind my ear. The dentist was convinced it would be solved with a root canal (wait, wasn’t all of 2020 a root canal?), and the chiropractor felt it would fade with an adjustment. My family thought it was just plain ol’ stress.

All good possibilities, but I had a feeling something wasn’t right. Something bigger. Fortunately, I was blessed with a doctor who trusted me, believing this needed a deeper look.

A day after listening to the knocking MRI machine, a phone call knocked the wind out of me – I had a brain tumor. Three weeks later, I would be wheeled into a very bright, cold operating room to have it removed with a craniotomy.

Over those three weeks, I experienced lots of highs and lows. You hope for the best. You prepare for the worst. Perhaps my greatest fear came when the neurosurgery resident introduced himself with a Nebraska Cornhusker lanyard hanging around his neck…ha, Buffs fans will understand!

After surgery, I woke with a sense of gratitude I will never forget. I was okay. I would take my kids to their proms, their graduations, welcome my grandkids. I was blessed, so blessed, to be in the care of the best doctors and best nurses, all trained in the best place to live on earth.

I think of the technology that diagnosed me in a single day. I think of the doctor’s steady hand leaving my brain intact, tumorless with no effects—and an insurance company (through my husband’s restaurant business) that built the model covering my costs. It’s not perfect, but damn if it didn’t work miracles in my case…as it does for so many.

We’re all blessed to live in Colorado, home to one of the top medical schools and teaching hospitals in the country. We’re blessed to have robust healthcare insurance options.

From the heroic efforts of nurses and doctors on the front lines, to the extraordinary accomplishment of drug researchers developing a vaccine, our healthcare is unmatched.

Not that any of this is a surprise. Since elected regent four years ago, I’ve seen it firsthand at CU Anschutz, one of the four campuses we oversee. The doctors, nurses, researchers, and donors are doing nothing short of curing cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Amazing. But unfortunately, all this could change.

In the midst of a pandemic, Colorado’s legislature is planning to push through a state-controlled plan that would majorly impact the delivery of health-care services in Colorado.

More than 50 hospitals across Colorado, almost two-thirds of hospitals in our state, are now considered financially vulnerable, thanks in large part to their efforts fighting COVID. The legislature’s Colorado Option Plan may cut annual hospital revenues by $1.1 billion more over the next three years.

This could push the system creating miracles—one of the top-rated hospital systems in the country—to a breaking point. Why are some elected officials so eager to change things this upcoming session? My brain is recovered enough to loudly proclaim, “DON’T!”

If the backers of state control are planning another legislative push in 2021, it’s time to pause, thinking long and hard on how their rush to transform our healthcare system will harm Colorado citizens. Our exhausted healthcare system is fragile right now—as are its consumers. We need to support it, not exploit the current crisis for pushing a control agenda.

Colorado health care is pretty awesome, and darned affordable, with the second-lowest annual average premium growth in the country over the last five years. 93% of Coloradans have health coverage. The size of our hospital systems and their ability to respond quickly was a large part of our success in fighting COVID-19.

The proposed Colorado Affordable Health Care Option is not the broad solution politicians claim. With unintended consequences to quality and access, it may force hospitals to eliminate some critical care functions. It may even endanger miracles like mine.

Just think how heroic Colorado’s medical community has been during COVID. From providing PPE to consolidating treatment facilities, our hospitals answered the call—and lost billions doing so. Profitability — that critical engine driving the miracle machine—was strained. But it must return. We must allow hospitals, doctors, nurses, labs, and insurance companies to reap rewards justifying their immense investments—investments of time, research, and resources.

Is now the time to pile on more regulation and government control, seizing upon a crisis to boost state power? Is now the time to strangle those free market heroes who served us so bravely the past year? Is now the time to put future miracles at risk?

No human system is perfect, but Colorado’s health care truly is a miracle. Just ask my kids. Just ask my husband.

Just ask me.

Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.

Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.

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