Zach Stone, Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator
What is the impact of increased availability of information on health costs?
How can Colorado’s health care work force be made more efficient?
What are the major health care cost drivers in Colorado’s rural areas?
These are just a few of the questions that the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care has been grappling with since the group was created through bipartisan legislation in 2014. The Commission has a three-year mission to analyze health care costs in Colorado and make policy recommendations to the Legislature and the governor for lowering health care costs in the state.
While the Commission is comprised of some of Colorado’s sharpest health care experts, they recognize they can’t complete their mission on their own. “Any effort like this has got to engage people across the state of Colorado and try to understand both what problems they’re facing and what ideas they have about solutions,” said Elizabeth Arenales, a consumer representative on the Commission. The Commission has been doing just that, holding statewide meetings to hear the varied experiences and perspectives of local communities on the issue of health care costs. Because “Colorado is a big state with many different kinds of communities,” said Arenales, “people have different problems in different areas of the state, and they have different perspectives on this problem.”
Though Coloradans across the state do indeed have varied perspectives on health care costs, CCHI staff did find some common themes in the three outreach meetings of the Commission we attended in Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Frisco.
For one, consumers wanted greater scrutiny of hospitals. Consumers in Frisco wondered whether lucrative nonprofit hospitals should really be considered “nonprofits.” In Colorado Springs, there was concern about the city building new hospital facilities and freestanding ERs. One consumer questioned: If there’s an incentive to keep people out of the hospital in order to keep costs down, then why do we keep building more facilities?
Affordability—or lack thereof—of health insurance premiums and out-pocket-costs was also a recurring subject. In Grand Junction, many believed that a lack of competition among insurers was to blame for rising health care costs for consumers. In Frisco, consumers discussed the efficacy of creating a single geographic rating area for health insurance in the state to potentially remedy the disproportionately high cost of coverage for Colorado’s mountain residents.
Mental health was also a top concern. “We as a community are suffering right now in that area,” said a consumer in Colorado Springs. The comment spurred a discussion about the troublesome fact that Colorado’s suicide rate is one of the highest in the country. In Frisco, consumers discussed mental health parity, and expressed the need for greater access to mental health services in the community.
Among other topics discussed at the meetings was the cost of specialty drugs, transparency in health care costs, telemedicine, ColoradoCare-amendment 69, underinsurance, social determinants of health, and much more.
If you’d like to share your perspective on health care costs, there are several ways to get involved in the conversation. For one, the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care is holding two more outreach meetings on July 20th in Sterling and Centennial. You can register for those meetings here. If you can’t attend those meetings, you can submit comments online on the Commission’s website. Furthermore, CCHI is always looking to hear about Coloradans’ experiences with their health care. If you’d like to share your story with us, you can do so here. Your story will inform our advocacy efforts with the Commission and lawmakers, so we can keep working toward all Coloradans having affordable, high-quality, equitable health care.