Andrew Dodson, Denver Business Journal
Coloradans are delaying medical procedures, opting to not fill prescriptions and avoiding doctors altogether because of rising health care costs in the state.
A new report, published by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and Health Care Value Hub of Altarum, highlights the healthcare affordability burdens that are currently under a microscope at the State Capitol as lawmakers look to rein in high health care costs.
The two organizations surveyed 970 Colorado adults this past holiday season and found that more than half experienced some type of health care affordability burden in the past year. As a result, most of those people delayed going to a doctor or having a procedure (39 percent), or avoided medical treatment altogether (34 percent).
More than a third — 39 percent — who sought treatment admitted to now struggling to pay their medical bills. Of those people, 20 percent used up most of their savings, 17 percent struggled to pay for basic necessities, like food, utilities and housing, and 15 percent were contacted by a collection agency.
Last month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an order to create the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care — a group that will largely target the hospital, pharmaceutical and insurance industries to implement policies designed to bring down medical costs. Polis has aggressive plans to address health care, including requiring hospitals to open their books to public scrutiny and create a reinsurance program that could slow the rise in individual policy costs.
The Colorado Hospital Association has offered up solutions to lower costs, including the development of a plan to figure out why Colorado has the second-highest inpatient utilization rate of hospitals by money-losing Medicaid patients. The association has also pointed to Colorado’s rising cost of living and expenses tied to recruiting talent as reasons for increasing costs.
A number of groups in Denver have released data that shows, on average across the state, outpatient services are charged at 540 percent the amount of Medicare — nearly 5.5 times — and 290 percent for inpatient services. Those percentages have gone up from 440 percent and 250 percent, respectively, since 2012. There’s now a push for baseline pricing at hospitals based on what the government reimburses for Medicare patients.
Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for CCHI, hopes the study leads to more action at the Capitol.
“Coloradans have spoken and our legislators need to listen, he said in a statement. “Coloradans across the political spectrum expect real actions to address the outrageously high cost of insurance and healthcare, including prescription drugs and hospitals. If there was any doubt before this survey, bills creating a public health insurance option, establishing a reinsurance program, protecting consumers from surprise medical bills, importing high-cost drugs from Canada, and creating greater hospital financial accountability should receive overwhelming bipartisan support in our legislature.”
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