Nic Garcia, The Denver Post
Colorado hospitals face new scrutiny after Gov. Jared Polis signed a new law Thursday that requires them to submit annual reports tracking what they’re charging customers and what they’re spending that money on.
Polis, along with the bill’s sponsors, celebrated the signing of House Bill 1001 as a first step toward lowering health costs in Colorado, a major theme of legislation making its way through the General Assembly this year.
“Everywhere that I went as I traveled the state during the campaign, and now as governor, I hear from folks that they’re being crushed by the high cost of health care,” Polis said. “I didn’t meet a single person who said they were paying too little.”
The data hospitals share with the state will be aggregated with the aim of identifying the most and least efficient hospitals. While the data will be made public, the report isn’t meant to help customers shop around for the best deals on health care. Instead, the reports are expected to be used by lawmakers to shape new policy and hold hospitals accountable for how they spend both private and tax dollars.
“This is not price transparency; it’s not going to help consumers know what they’re going to spend at a particular hospital,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “But it will help provide a clear picture of how hospitals are spending their resources and what kinds of care they’re really providing for the dollars we’re paying them.”
Despite being one of the healthiest states, Coloradans face some of the highest health insurance premiums, and the cost of care at hospitals continue to rise. The Denver Post reported last year that hospitals here increased prices by 76 percent during a seven-year span as their profits jumped to among the largest in the nation, according to data the state plans to use to change spending priorities.
Polis and the bill’s bipartisan sponsors — state Rep. Chris Kennedy and Sens. Dominick Moreno and Bob Rankin — acknowledged that the new law would not be enough to save consumers money.
“This is going to be a huge step forward for us, but this is just the first of many,” Kennedy said.
Other bills that aim to tackle health care costs making their way through the legislature include proposals for the state to create its own health insurance program, allow individuals to import drugs from Canada and a drug-cost transparency bill.
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