Matrix offers ways to find insurance for uninsured

Uninsured Colorado residents can determine whether they are eligible for public or low-cost private health insurance through a free, online reference guide, Colorado Health Care Options Matrix, provided by the Foundation for Health Coverage Education.
The brochure, available at, also is useful for social workers or health care professionals who are trying to find insurance for their clients, or for small business owners who want to help employees find insurance options. The guide can be viewed, downloaded and printed, free of charge.
Many Coloradoans are eligible for health care programs, but are either unaware of them or need help signing up, said Philip Lebherz, founder of the foundation.
The Colorado Health Care Options Matrix outlines the plan, coverage, eligibility and monthly cost for each program. The site has information about publicly sponsored program coverage for people with expensive medical conditions, low-income families, low-income children, trade dislocated workers, women, veterans and American Indians. It also has information about options for private health insurance coverage for employees and small business, people with recent coverage and people in relatively good health.
The Web site provides charts to help individuals assess their federal poverty level, and outlines how to research related issues such as laws and regulations, and ways to search for grants, loans or other benefits.
In addition, provides information such as a health coverage eligibility tool and the U.S. Uninsured Help Line (800-234-1317), which has counselors to help people review eligibility and find coverage in their state.
The Foundation for Health Coverage Education is a nonprofit private organization based in San Jose, Calif. It was founded in response to the increasing number of uninsured who are eligible for health coverage but not enrolled.

IT health victory

During the last month, three states and 100 companies have committed to the Bush Administration’s initiative for health care information technology and “value driven health care.”
The initiative has four goals: standards-based health records system, reporting on health care quality, transparency in cost information and providing incentives for those who choose care at competitive prices.
By spring, when the acquisition cycle for 2008 health care begins, the Health and Human Services Department wants to have more than 60 percent of health care buyers include the goals in their purchasing. The federal government accounts for about two-thirds of that goal.
Virginia, Georgia and Texas have agreed to the goals, along with companies such as IBM, General Mills, Xerox, Starbucks and the country’s three largest automakers.

Malpractice distribution

Most Colorado doctors will receive a late Christmas present. COPIC insurance company plans to return $10 million in distributions to the doctors it insures. The amount is the largest distribution in the company’s 25 year history.
COPIC, the largest medical malpractice insurer in the state, covers more than 80 percent of privately insured Colorado physicians. The news of the disbursement comes after the insurer’s September announcement that there will be no overall premium increase for 2007.
“One of the promises we make to our insured physicians is that we will return distributions to them whenever our finances permit,” said Ted Clarke, COPIC chairman and CEO. “This has the effect of moderating the total amount paid for medical malpractice insurance.”
COPIC has no individual shareholders. Its purpose is to allow health care providers to focus on health care. The company has paid distributions of $101.6 million to Colorado doctors, including a $2.7 million distribution in December 2005.
Clarke said that much of the credit for the $10 million distribution and stable premiums goes to the state legislature for enacting and maintaining medical malpractice reform that has allowed Colorado to avoid the problems facing many other states.
Colorado is one of only eight states deemed by the American Medical Association to be “stable” amid what it calls “America’s medical liability crisis.”
For most years since the enactment of the Health Care Availability Act in 1988 — which includes limits on non-economic damages — COPIC’s average annual rates have declined or been limited to single-digit increases.

DNA workshops offered

A Colorado company is offering workshops for people interested in the theory and methodology behind human DNA identification, the basis for paternity and forensic casework.
Courses for non-scientists and scientists will be available, with different levels of technical information presented. Both courses will use cell-swab samples from individuals who will perform lab exercises to extract DNA and identify the owner. Lectures and lab work will be taught by scientists with experience in molecular biology applications.
GeneThera, based in Wheat Ridge, is offering the classes to fill excess capacity in its lab. The company uses the space to test animals for Mad Cow and Chronic Wasting Diseases. Those tests are “highly automated,” so much of the lab space is unused, said lab director Dr. Tony Milici.
Workshop participants also will be able to use equipment for molecular amplification and detection.
The workshops are scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2007. Each course costs $1,000 and will last two or three days. For more information, call GeneThera at (303) 463-6371.
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.