Health Care

Courtesy Chris Blumenstein

Vietnam War veteran Rodger Holmes became ill in 2014, at the height of a national scandal over long patient wait times at care centers and allegations of negligence at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Holmes, who sought care for his Hepatitis C liver disease at the Grand Junction VA Health Care System, was among those to complain.  

"He lost a tremendous amount of weight," said Chris Blumenstein, who served as a VA social worker to Holmes. "He was losing his mental clarity, his mental sharpness, he couldn't remember things."

Holmes died in December 2014, but in response to concerns, the VA's national Office of Inspector General launched an investigation and released recommendations May 11, 2016.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Colorado schools may soon be forced to allow students to use medical marijuana in a non-smokeable form while on school grounds. It's already allowed under state law – but no districts have created access policies, leaving many families frustrated.

A bill [.pdf] under consideration at the capitol would require all school districts – even those without policies – to allow parents or caregivers to administer medical marijuana on school grounds, typically in the nurse's office. Students would not be allowed to take the cannabis tablet or put on the patch or oil themselves.

"Let's make sure they have the medication they need, and do it in an appropriate way," said state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), House Bill 16-1373's sponsor.

Colorado General Assembly

Health insurance premiums can vary widely in Colorado depending on where you live — it's just one of the factors health insurance companies use to calculate prices. Mountain regions continue to have some of the highest premiums in the country. At the statehouse, House Bill 16-1336 [.pdf] would look at treating the entire state as one region, rather than continuing to group regions separately.

"Our current insurance payment of $1,508 a month is equivalent to our mortgage payment. We can't afford it," said Richard Backe, a Garfield County small-business owner. "There are numerous people in the mountain district with the same story. We are the healthiest counties in the state, and we have the highest insurance rates."

Cara Pallone / KOTO

Colorado is, overall, one of the healthiest states in the country – but things are starting to change as the population grows and ages. One of the unintended side effects is a widening disparity between the healthiest and least healthy counties.

New data indicates disparities across geographic regions; with people living in the mountain communities generally ranking as the healthiest in Colorado. In part due to the things that attract people to the state to begin with.

"The amount of sunshine, the world class skiing, hiking, fly fishing, the ability to go right outside your backyard and experience nature," said Democratic Summit County commissioner Dan Gibbs.

A lot of visitors to Colorado figure they might give the state's good ganja a try, but they might not be prepared for the effects. When it comes to bad weed trips, out-of-staters have been doing much worse than Colorado residents and are going to the ER more often since recreational sales of marijuana began in 2014.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

About 15 years ago, Lori Ramos Lemasters got a phone call in the middle of the night. Her mother, who lived in California, had suffered a stroke.

At the time, her mother was her dad's primary caregiver - he had medical problems. So Lemasters made a choice. She left her job as a mortgage banker in Littleton and moved to California. She thought it would be a quick trip. 

spacebahr / Flickr - Creative Commons

In 2016, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposal for universal single payer health care. If the ballot measure, called Initiative 20, passes, it would set up a single payer-style health care system known as ColoradoCare that would serve all the state's residents — with some exceptions. Before the debate over the measure gets too pitched, here's a few key facts about the proposal.

Parents of children with severe epilepsy have reported incredible recoveries when their children were given cannabidiol, a derivative of marijuana. The drug, a non-psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in cannabis, has been marketed with epithets like Charlotte's Web and Haleigh's Hope.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Inside a small, plain-looking room at the Northglenn Heights memory care facility, volunteer Dale Jones walks slowly around a circle of older adults. Some have walkers or wheelchairs, some are just seated quietly. Jones is handing out small, colorful plush birds that fit neatly in their hands. As he gives out the toy birds, he shows each resident how to make them sing a birdsong.

"You can just hold on to it and if you want to listen to it sing, press right here in the middle," Jones instructs.

Giving singing bird toys to adults with dementia may seem kind of odd. But it's actually part of a regular biweekly educational therapy program. This program, called Bird Tales, uses toy birds to bring a little bit of nature into long term care facilities.

spacebahr / Flickr - Creative Commons

The number of Coloradans who don't have health insurance has dropped by about half since President Barack Obama's signature health care law went into effect. The state's uninsured rate fell from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 6.7 percent in 2015. Not only does the Colorado Access Health Survey say that the uninsured are at a record low, it also finds that more people have enrolled in Medicaid.

Pages