Don’t Pay Any Attention to that Woman Behind the Curtain

Who is Deborah Farrell? You might want to know.

Deborah Farrell is the woman doing the bidding of the largest industry on the planet. Deborah Farrell is the sole objector to our ballot initiative. But she didn’t show up at the hearing last Wednesday. Instead, she sent her attorneys from the legal firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, LLP.

While all motions raised at the rehearing were denied, Ms. Farrell will now appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

We wanted to know who Deborah Farrell is, so we did some searching. It wasn’t hard.

A quick web search revealed that she is Chairman of the Board of the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida, CO, and she is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Colorado Hospital Association.

Several questions come to mind. The first is why the Hospital Association doesn’t have the courage to identify itself. Their attorneys show up at hearings and are polite enough, but they won’t say who they are truly representing or who’s paying their bills. That’s everyone’s right, but it doesn’t make it right. The truth, I’m sure, is that neither Deborah nor the Hospital Association is proud of what they are doing. Every individual and every company I talk to, not including members of the healthcare industrial complex, are in favor of our ballot initiative. It is not even bi-partisan; it’s as non-partisan as it gets. The objections raised were all highly technical in nature. The merit of the ballot measure is not in question.

When I visit the Heart of the Rockies website, the first thing I wonder about is the top item on the Medical Center’s “About Us” page. It highlights their art collection. Art has become a favorite expenditure of hospitals that are making too much money. In order to reduce the amount of money they show themselves making, they invest in art to “improve the healing environment.” Only organizations earning out-sized profits want to maintain the status quo by resisting true transparency in healthcare pricing and billing. In Colorado, that’s mostly hospitals, which are among the most profitable in the country. A recent report from CIVHC also tells us that Colorado is paying among the highest prices for healthcare in the country.

It all adds up. According CIVHC, it adds up to us paying 17% more than other states for the same services. And according to another recent report, all of the increases in costs can actually be attributed to price increases, not increased use of the healthcare system. That only happens when organizations—primarily hospitals in the case of Colorado—are allowed to stifle competition to earn uneconomic (i.e., unfair) profits.

The American healthcare industry—hospitals, insurance carriers, pharmaceutical companies, and others— is the largest industry on the planet. If America’s healthcare industry were a nation unto itself, it would rank as the fourth or fifth largest behind the U.S., China, and Japan. America’s healthcare system is just about the same size as Germany’s entire economy, give or take a few billion dollars depending on which numbers you look at. Why won’t the healthcare industry show itself? Why do they hide behind a woman in a remote part of Colorado (Salida is about a two-hour drive west from Colorado Springs)?

As best I can tell, Ms. Farrell has not offered to speak to Colorado’s media. She did not offer to speak to me or Andrew (my co-sponsor on the ballot measure), or make any effort to discuss the ballot measure and whether there were changes we were willing to make. She’s not spoken to Representative Mike Foote, who is working with us to get the same legislation through the General Assembly. She’s clearly not interested in anything other than serving as a front for a belligerent healthcare industry committed to seeing our efforts fail.

I’ve met with the Colorado Hospital Association. I thought they were open, honest, and productive meetings. They had some good ideas. They had some simple concerns that were easy to address. They could have done me or Representative Foote the courtesy of letting us know they were the hidden opposition. They chose not to. So, now the gloves must come off. They’ve clearly been stalling the legislative process. They had a chance to have a say in the language of this law. They decided to pass on that opportunity.

Why do we allow people like Farrell a voice through attorneys? By law, Andrew and I must appear at every hearing on the ballot measure. Ms. Farrell, on the other hand, can send her attorneys and remain in the shadows. If you know Ms. Farrell, please ask her to step out from the shadows and be heard. Please ask her to meet me for a public debate. It seems like a fair fight. She’s a Wharton graduate. She’s on the board of a hospital and a hospital association. She should know her subject matter inside and out.

If you are a patient or employer in Salida, you can let your voice be heard by calling Ms. Farrell directly or by calling the Medical Center. I’m sure they’ll pass on your message. If you live in Salida, you might be thinking that you don’t want to speak up because there are not a lot of options for care in Salida. Just know that Ms. Farrell is working hard to ensure it stays that way.

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