Opinion Editorial by Adam Fox, Director of Strategic Engagement, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative
Published in the Denver Post January 8, 2020
Any day now, the health care industry will invade your newspaper, radio, television, and social media feeds with what will likely be at least a 7 figure PR and lobbying campaign to kill the state option for health care coverage. That’s on top of the huge sums they dedicate to lobbying your legislators and yet another way they’re using and protecting their excessive profits rather than lowering consumers’ costs.
The industry is already claiming the sky will fall if we create a state option plan. They are playing the fear card because they know if you actually look at the real numbers and not the ones they curate or pay to present to you, they cannot justify what they are charging.
An innovative public-private partnership, the state option, is a Colorado solution that can create more affordable health insurance and ensure Coloradans in rural areas have more than one insurance provider to choose from.
For years, health insurance rates went up. But now they’re falling for most Coloradans in the individual market, thanks to the bipartisan reinsurance program created by our legislators and Governor. With the collaborative efforts of Republicans, Democrats, and even the federal government, Coloradans from the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains are seeing rates go down.
While this provides some much-needed relief from high health care costs, it isn’t enough.
Many hospitals in our state are raking in record revenues and profits but claim that setting more reasonable costs isn’t an option. Instead of shifting savings to consumers following dramatic reductions in uncompensated care in 2014, hospitals pocketed the money and kept raising prices — 60% in the past 9 years. In 2018, Denver area hospitals alone made a record $2 billion and have seen their profits grow 50% in recent years. Rather than use that excess revenue to lower prices, they built new facilities or expanded services that pad their pockets with little additional benefit to consumers.
There are still important questions we need to answer for our state option, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to incite fear, shirk responsibility, or avoid action that would help families needing coverage and care. We do need to ensure we continue to pay rural and critical access hospitals sufficiently under the plan, but we can do that while still holding others accountable.
The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Division of Insurance recently delivered a recommendation to the legislature for the design of our state coverage option. This report is the result of a thoroughly-reviewed bipartisan law and an extensive stakeholder process and analysis over the past six months. Shout out to Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose for working across the aisle with Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail on HB19-1004.
When you see or hear the industry’s fear-based messages, keep a few things in mind. You pay some of the highest health insurance premiums in the country, especially in rural areas. You pay some of the highest hospital costs in the country, often to bloated hospital systems that are gobbling up the health care market and acting like monopolies. And more and more Coloradans struggle to afford the prescription drugs they need.
Ask yourself, why are hospitals, insurers, and drug corporations profiting so much while everyday Coloradans are paying through the nose for basic health care coverage and care? Commonsense health care savings solutions like the state option will help us all thrive and enjoy our Colorado way of life amid a rising cost of living.
Don’t let the industry’s scare tactics convince you otherwise.