Health care in Summit County and Colorado keeps getting more expensive
November 15, 2018
A new study has found that health care costs in Colorado are still rising. A study by the Portland, Maine-based Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement found that health care costs for commercially-insured individuals in Colorado increased by 2 percent from 2015 to 2016, while Colorado also continues to have higher costs than states within the region and other states with comparable populations.
In a multi-state benchmark analysis including Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah and the city of St. Louis, Missouri, Colorado was found to have health care costs 19 percent higher than the multi-state average. The group also found that the costs are driven by 5 percent higher service utilization and 13 percent higher prices for services.
Breaking it down further, the report showed that Colorado has higher prices for inpatient care (31 percent), outpatient care (15 percent), specialist/professional care (7 percent), and prescription drugs (5 percent). Colorado was the only state to have higher-than-average prices in every category, despite recording less utilization for those services from the year before.
A separate analysis by the Center for Improving Value in Health Care asserted that Colorado could save $54 million annually if costs were brought down to the state average, while over $141 million could be saved if costs were brought down to the multi-state average.
"Many efforts are underway in Colorado to curb health care costs, and this new data shows that we need to accelerate those efforts in certain areas in order to make health care affordable for Coloradans," said Ana English, president and CEO of the center in a press release.
Another factor driving higher costs is a lack of stability in the market, which is driven by the widely varying costs for the state's nine insurance geographic rating areas. Colorado Springs has the lowest total cost at $335 per person per month. The center attributed the lower costs to less service usage and lower prices.
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However, Summit County and the western regions continue to see costs soar above the other regions, with individuals spending an average of $584 per month for health care, with 7 percent higher service usage and 29 percent higher prices than those observed across all regions.
Democrats across the country used health care as a major talking point during campaign season. Judging by last week's midterm election results, that strategy certainly worked in Colorado as voters elected Democrats to every major state office.
Gov.-elect Jared Polis has already pledged to reform the state's health system by increasing consumer protections, creating a system to import prescription drugs and overhauling the insurance zone system so rural voters in the West are not unfairly burdened by higher costs due to its rural nature and lower population.
The good news in the near future is that costs in Colorado and across the country are expected to start stabilizing in 2019 as market conditions settle. While costs are expected to rise again, they will not be as steep as years past. In Summit County, double-digit cost increases became the norm for several years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.