Think about it: philanthropists strive to improve health care at a lower cost


The magic of philanthropy happens when donors come together for a cause that improves people’s lives.

Causes come in all shapes and sizes, from the arts to education to the environment, but today’s column will share a story of donors joining hands to tackle an issue that involves literally everyone’s wallet and general well-being.

First of all, let me go back and remind everyone about the high cost of health insurance. Until recently, there was only one provider serving the valley and monthly premiums were among the most expensive in the country.

“If you combine our high cost of living with our small population, we are really in a tough spot,” said Jake Mascotte, former health insurance executive and current board member of the Aspen Community Foundation ( ACF).

We tend to think that the vast majority of people in Roaring Fork Valley are in good health. However, there is still a small percentage of the population who have not seen a family doctor in years but go directly to the emergency room when a family member is short of breath or has abdominal pain. What people may not know is that this accounts for the majority of health care costs.

But what if these patients could be persuaded to choose a family doctor, have annual check-ups and preventive care, and listen to their doctor’s advice? According to Mascotte, if a higher percentage of locals engaged in their own health and struck up a regular, two-way conversation with a primary supplier, the Aspen-to-Parachute region would become a less risky region to insure.

From there, it follows that customers in a more predictable and less risky market will pay lower insurance premiums.

For several years now, the Valley Health Alliance (VHA) has pursued a systemic change in the way residents get their health care, with the goal of achieving “better care, better outcomes, and lower costs” in the community. valley. At the heart of this effort is connecting as many individuals and families as possible with a primary supplier. If primary care providers take good care of their patients and help patients take care of themselves, costs will go down overall.

“If you get involved in your own health and become a good consumer (of health care), it will only improve the whole system,” said Chris McDowell, executive director of the VHA.

When Mascotte heard about the VHA and its approach, he rallied a group of motivated donors to support the VHA and its work. Donors created a new fund at the Aspen Community Foundation to increase the quality and affordability of health care in the region, and they dedicated five years of funding to the mission.

“It’s important to note that this is not a catastrophic six-week effort,” Mascotte said. “It’s going to take a long time, but we can get better and better if we’re all in the game.”

This long-term cause was not fomented by the Aspen Community Foundation, but a group of donors have used the foundation as a vehicle to fund a transformation in local health care.

Colorado’s open enrollment period begins November 1 and I encourage everyone to browse insurance plans on Help is available on the site for those who are having difficulty understanding their insurance options. In fact, ACF donor money is used to pay for one of these coaches. Many valley residents are also eligible for tax credits and grants.

“We want to help people sign up for the exchange and find the best health plan to meet their needs,” McDowell said.

Healthcare is expensive, complex, and often frustrating – especially in the Aspen-to-Parachute region – but the VHA is focused on the laser to help all residents find quality insurance at a fair price. This is truly a case of philanthropy working to solve problems on a regional scale, and I thank these visionary donors for recognizing the opportunity.

Tamara Tormohlen is Executive Director of the Aspen Community Foundation.

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