Every minute of every day since the pandemic struck, doctors, nurses and other workers in Colorado hospitals have played a critical role in the response to COVID-19. They have worked tirelessly to avoid the shortages of hospital beds we have seen in other states. They have pioneered new, life-saving treatments for COVID-19 patients. They have spearheaded vaccine distribution efforts.
They have been there for us, putting their patients and communities first, despite the terrible toll that hospital systems and their staffs have suffered.
An advocacy organization called the Colorado Business Group on Health commissioned an analysis of hospital prices and found that Colorado hospitals have higher profit margins than any other state.
That’s a shocking claim when you consider today’s reality. The costs of fighting COVID-19 have demolished hospital budgets all across the country. Here in Colorado, hospitals are dealing with losses of between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion from the past year, according to the Greenwood Village-based Common Sense Institute.
It turns out the Colorado Business Group on Health analysis relies on data from three years ago, which might as well be three decades ago given all that has changed in the pandemic’s wake.
Not only that, the report ignored more recent data from the Colorado Hospital Association showing significant cost reductions in 2019.
Meanwhile, there have been huge reductions in the cost of individual Affordable Care Act health plans in Colorado. Over the last three years, the average benchmark premium in the ACA insurance marketplace has fallen 28% in Colorado, and our benchmark premiums are 22% below the national average.
Overall, average benchmark premiums in Colorado are among the lowest in the nation, according to federal data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Data from KFF also shows that before the pandemic, we had some of the lowest hospital expenses per capita in the nation.
In addition to these competitive costs, we continue to have some of the top-rated hospitals in the country in terms of quality of care. For example, 11 of the nation’s top 250 hospitals are based in Colorado, according to the latest rankings from Healthgrades.
The Colorado legislature is debating whether to a “public option” insurance plan to the choices already available on the state’s Connect for Health Colorado insurance exchange. But a state-level public option simply isn’t justified by the facts on the ground.
Data from the Polis administration has shown that low and middle-income families who have government-subsidized health-care premiums would actually pay more every month for their insurance if the government-controlled plan became a reality.
When it comes to public policy, particularly on a matter as significant as a government-run health care system, facts and data matter. We simply cannot afford to make mistakes when it comes to our health care system. It’s too important to our health care heroes. And, it’s too important to my family and yours.
Jeff Keener is the president and CEO of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce.
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