BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On Feb. 14, the economic development and health and wellness groups of the South Metro Denver Chamber presented an important program on the economics of health care in Colorado. In addition to representatives of two of the state’s large hospital systems, the program included Simon Lomax, policy adviser to the Partnership for Affordability and Transparency in Healthcare (PATH). Lomax is also a former congressional fellow of the American Political Science Association and Bloomberg News reporter.
Lomax reported that 93 percent of Coloradans have health care coverage, slightly higher than the country overall, according to the United States Census Bureau. Most believe that the large percentage of Americans with coverage is attributable to the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. It has not come without a cost. Nationally, over the past ten years, health insurance premiums have increased 54 percent while deductibles have gone up 162 percent.
In Colorado, within the 93 percent who are insured, two-thirds have private insurance, 90 percent of which is employer provided. The other one-third of Colorado residents who have health care are covered by Medicare or Medicaid. That also comes with a cost because the combined number of people on Medicare and Medicaid has grown in the past ten years from 20 percent of all those covered to 33 percent, and Medicare and Medicaid only pay hospitals 69 percent of what it actually costs them to provide health care services. If this trend continues, hospitals will lose more money caring for those patients. Those losses can only be recouped by increasing the rates charged to private insurers.
Still, the overall condition of Colorado’s health care industry can only be described as strong. Colorado has the 9th lowest-cost for premiums for employer-provided health insurance for single people and the 13th lowest for family coverage. In 2018, the employee’s share of the cost of health insurance as a percentage of median income went down five percent in Colorado while it went up five percent nationally.
Better still, as costs have been contained, the quality of health care services remains high. Colorado ranks in the top ten states in almost all levels of health care, especially the hospital sector. Three Colorado hospitals were just announced as having been included in Healthgrades’ list of America’s Top 50 Best Hospitals for 2020. According to Healthgrades, Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette, and Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins “are in the top 1 %
of hospitals in the nation for consistently providing overall clinical excellence across a broad spectrum of conditions and procedures year over year.” Lutheran also won the award in 2018 and 2019. Good Samaritan also won it in 2019.
Erica Rossitto, chief nursing officer, HealthONE, explained to South Metro Chamber members that HealthONE sees 1500 to 1600 patients in its six acute care hospitals, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, and Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital each day. In the interest of being “responsible stewards in terms of not duplicating services,” HealthONE has developed specialty areas in its facilities. Swedish Medical Center in Englewood contains a specially-equipped comprehensive stroke center, Medical Center of Aurora has well-developed service lines in cardiac surgery and a 120-bed inpatient behavioral health unit, and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children receives young patients from areas in and outside of Colorado because of its level 4 newborn intensive care unit.
Leanne Naso, chief operating officer, Parker Adventist Hospital, said that Centura Health, which includes 17 hospitals across Colorado and western Kansas, is the largest health care provider in Colorado. It is a faith-based not-for-profit organization.
Both hospital systems report that they face challenges in workforce development. In response to the nursing shortage, HealthONE is collaborating with Regis University in a new program to train health care workers in a stairstep approach to allow students to spend more time in a hospital setting during their training. Centura providers speakers at local schools to encourage students to choose a profession in health care.
Looking toward the future, Lomax pointed to the well-known demographic trend in Colorado: we are an aging population who will need more health care in the next decade. According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, our state’s population that is over age 65 was 555,000 in 2010. It will balloon to 1,243,000 in 2030, a 125 percent increase.
2018 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |