When it comes to improving health care, most Coloradans want the same thing: lower costs, improved access and a higher quality of care.

However, some of the one-size-fits-all proposals out of Washington – and our own state Capitol here in Colorado — would not only fail to achieve these worthy goals, but would take us further away from them than we are today. For Colorado’s businesses, taxpayers and health care system, proposals like the public option should be a non-starter.

The business community across Colorado largely agrees that our health care system is far from perfect. Affordability and accessibility remain the top challenges the system faces. Yet we are deeply concerned that the massive government intervention in the private sector that the public option requires would actually make health care less affordable and accessible for Colorado families.  

Debbie Brown

The facts about the plan paint a troubling picture. 

Experts indicate that funding the public option could require an annual $2,300 payroll tax increase on the average American worker. Meanwhile, a study by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget recently found that, as a policy, the public option could end up increasing federal deficits by up to $1.35 trillion from 2021-30. 

As if all of this was not bad enough, a public option would undermine access to health care here in Colorado and across the country by hitting health care providers with new financial burdens. 

According to yet another study — which analyzed the impact of the public option in the 2020 economic environment — our nation’s hospitals are already facing tremendous financial burdens this year due to coverage changes and the costs of preparing for and treating an influx of COVID-19 patients.

As a result, hospitals are projected to lose more than $49 billion in 2020; however, the study found that these financial losses could increase by 60% under a public option, exceeding $79 billion. 

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The areas that would be most impacted by these losses would be our hard-to-reach, rural communities, which already suffer from a diminished access to care, higher costs and longer waiting times.

For rural health care providers, many of which are already operating in the red to begin with, the losses brought on by a public option could be enough to force them to scale back critical services or close down their facilities altogether. 

The threat of increased costs come at a time when exciting innovations in health care delivery are expanding.  One of the most important is the growth of telehealth, which allows patients to be seen and diagnosed remotely.  

Growth in telehealth has been critical during the COVID crisis because patients don’t have to risk being exposed by visiting a health care facility – and doctors have been able to see patients even when offices and hospitals have restricted access.  

Yet telehealth isn’t inexpensive, and layering new costs on providers will stifle the ability to invest in the telehealth systems that are offering such promise across Colorado. 

There is no doubt that lawmakers can and should do more to lower health care costs and expand access to care for all Americans, but heavy-handed, government-centric proposals like the public option are not the right solution.

Let’s focus on building upon what is working in our current health care system and introducing balanced and innovative policies to fix what is still broken. Ultimately, that is a far better option than the public option.

Debbie Brown is President of the Colorado Business Roundtable. 

The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.

Debbie Brown, of Centennial, is president of the Colorado Business Roundtable.