Colorado Editorial Roundup
Aurora Sentinel, Feb. 3, on Northwest measles outbreak being a reminder of Colorado Legislature’s vaccine failure:
A potential public health disaster last week in neighboring western states underscores why Colorado must end its perilous philosophical exemption to mandatory immunization.
Currently, there’s not even a bill in our own legislature that would end the state’s inapt vaccination exemptions.
Last week, a measles outbreak in Oregon and Washington sickened dozens of people with a sometimes deadly disease that was once eradicated in the United States in 2000. Public health officials there say that of 44 confirmed cases — and they’re certain there will be many more — 37 were residents who had not been vaccinated against the highly contagious virus.
It’s an astounding number and outbreak that speaks to the damage ignorant and irresponsible parents are causing in communities like Portland across the nation — including Colorado.
Shockingly, Colorado ranks near the bottom of states for rates of child immunization compliance. It’s unnerving because the state has one of the highest proportions of highly educated parents in the nation.
But a large number of parents, and previous state lawmakers, have fallen victim to a pervasive ruse undermining immunization rates and public health.
That ruse is a regularly discredited study run by a discredited doctor who fallaciously tied autism to childhood vaccinations. The U.S. media irresponsibly published the claims despite experts exposing the author’s poor science, helping to legitimize them.
There is not one reputable pediatrician, pediatric organization, hospital, clinic or researcher that does not vehemently work to debunk the autism lie and beg parents to vaccinate their children.
Now, huge swaths of the public are at dire risk across the nation. Measles is not an inconvenience. It can easily be deadly to children and adults with compromised immune systems who depend on “the herd” to remain disease free through mass immunization. It can be deadly to healthy children, too.
But states like Colorado have succumbed to ignorant parent pressure and continue to allow anyone to keep from vaccinating their child and attend public schools without a valid medical reason.
In Colorado, it’s actually easier to say that you don’t want to vaccinate your child than to prove that you have.
Lawmakers should immediately adopt a recent California measure, which requires vaccination of all children without a valid medical issue, or prohibits that child from attending public schools. Likewise, programs such as league sports, Boy Scouts and others should also require immunizations or valid medical exemption to help protect all children.
In the two years California has adopted the measure, compliance has nearly returned to safe standards.
Real scientists and medical professionals are unequivocal: The purported autism danger of childhood vaccines are lies. Dangerous lies.
In a state where real science rightfully rules decision making on so many issues, it’s past time to let science guide the state back toward mandatory vaccination.
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Feb. 3, on filling the void on health care solutions:
“If anything happens to save Coloradans money on health care, it’ll come from Colorado,” Gov. Jared Polis told the Sentinel’s editorial board on Friday. “It’s not likely to come from Washington.”
Indeed, a divided Congress is having a tough enough time figuring out how to fully keep the federal government open. Prospects for meaningful health-care legislation are dim.
Against a backdrop of congressional gridlock, which the former congressman knowns only too well, Polis is driving an ambitious agenda to contain health-care costs on multiple fronts under a broader banner of securing a more prosperous economy for all state residents.
That means pushing Opportunity Zones as a means of making rural areas of the state more attractive for capital-intensive investment, like advanced manufacturing or server farms. It means pushing for full-day kindergarten, not just to improve academic performance over a student’s lifetime, but to save school districts money on remediation and special education spending and to save parents money on child care or the cost of kindergarten itself.
Lowering health-care costs and making early childhood education more expansive and accessible are the quality of life issues that make Colorado more attractive “on the margins” for investment, Polis said.
Polis spoke with the editorial board between a visit to Orchard Avenue Elementary in Grand Junction and a health-care town hall meeting in Frisco. Early in this legislative session, he’s laying the groundwork for what his administration hopes to achieve.
Whatever long-term plans Polis may have for a single-payer, universal health-care system in Colorado, he’s clearly working within the existing framework to target more immediate cost savings.
Acknowledging there’s no “silver bullet” or any particular stakeholder group to single out for high health-care costs, Polis is willing to consider any combination of reforms that lowers costs, expands coverage and improves the quality of health care in the state.
Better transparency in hospital pricing and for why prescriptions drugs are so expensive could have a quick-acting effect on costs, he said. Polis supports a proposal allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada, an idea that Vermont is already pursuing.
Another proposal calls for a reinsurance program for the highest-cost medical cases to help stabilize premiums.
Polis supports a House bill calling for a study of a state option for health care coverage, such as a buy-in to Medicaid. At the same time he noted that if efforts to lower insurance rates succeed, more people will move from Medicaid to private insurance.
Some lawmakers view a Medicaid buy-in as a precursor to universal health care. But as the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported, the bill to study the issue won bipartisan support in the House Health & Insurance Committee a few weeks ago and even has a Republican sponsor, Rep. Marc Catlin of Montrose.
These attempts at cost containment come amid a report released last month by Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which found that Colorado hospitals charged higher and higher percentages to people with private insurance, even as their revenues grew and the number of people without insurance they treated fell.
The report finds Colorado hospitals could have passed on savings to consumers of as much as $11.5 billion over a nine-year period if they had better contained costs and lowered their margins, according to the Associated Press.
Anything the Polis administration can do to address this cost-shift may have the biggest impact yet on taming health care costs.
The Denver Post, Jan. 30, on banning abstinence-based sex education:
With the rate of sexually transmitted diseases increasing among Colorado teens, we must ensure that our students are taught how to safely and effectively use condoms.
That’s not radical; it’s common sense.
And it’s one of the goals behind House Bill 1032, which is sponsored by Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose. The bill bans religious-based or abstinence-only sex education instruction in all publicly funded schools.
Colorado’s academic standards have for a long time been based on a comprehensive health curriculum, but schools have been able to teach abstinence-based programs alongside comprehensive programs, and some rural and charter schools have opted out of health courses completely.
Abstinence education may be fine for some students, but according to the 2017 Healthy Kids Survey, more than 50 percent of high school seniors say they have engaged in sexual activity. History tells us that teens are going to engage in risky behavior whether we talk to them about it or not, but helping teens mitigate the risks associated with their decisions is paramount.
In 2017, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported the highest number in at least a decade of newly reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. And while syphilis cases are predominately reported in older men, chlamydia and gonorrhea disproportionately affect teens and young women.
Just how prevalent are these sexually transmitted diseases that can cause long-term health problems including infertility and birth defects?
From 2013, the rate of chlamydia increased 23 percent to 481 cases per 100,000 people in Colorado and nearly 3,000 of those cases were among teens between the ages of 15 and 19. Gonorrhea was less common in Colorado — 151 cases per 100,000 people — but the disease has spread rapidly since 2013, growing by 182 percent.
While that aspect of the legislation is fairly straightforward, the Colorado Republican Party and other conservatives have raised flags about parts of the bill that would require comprehensive sex education to include information about the experiences and healthy relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.
We could see why that language would be threatening to religious individuals who would rather their children not talk about sexual orientation in school. However, if our public schools are teaching health education, they must teach all students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Public schools don’t have the ability, nor should they, to simply ignore a segment of the population they teach.
However, the bill’s sponsors should put the minds of parents at ease and eliminate language they are proposing that specifically excludes gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and healthy relationship programs from the parental notification processes. Yes, those topics are being discussed outside of human sexuality, but we think the law is clear that it is only referring to sex education curriculum without that exclusion.
All Colorado parents like to be informed what their children are learning and have the final say, especially regarding sexual education. A small amendment can ensure that happens.
Colorado’s health education must be inclusive and comprehensive and should be taught in all schools. And as is the case now, parents can opt their children out if they prefer.