Hospitals, Doctors Differ on Universal Health Care in Colorado

Sarah McIlvaine
Author | Shield HealthCare
06/03/16  3:07 PM PST
universal health care

This story from The Denver Post covers a state attempting to lead the country in a transition to universal health care. Colorado proponents for universal care, headed by the group Coloradans for Coloradans, have put an initiative on the November ballot that would make universal care the new state policy. Hospitals and other businesses are fighting the initiative financially, while doctors and patients donate personally and advocate to pass it. Hospitals fear that passing the initiative will result in a deficit of funds to cover patient care, while doctors argue that patients cannot afford care due to the high costs they must pay in the current system. The amendment would create a pool from a ten percent income tax (with further stipulations), and would eliminate deductibles and co-payments for primary care and preventive services. For the full story, click the link that follows.

The campaign to establish the nation’s first universal health care system in Colorado may be a longshot, but insurance companies and hospitals aren’t taking chances…

While hospitals fight the initiative, doctors who support it say they see patients struggling to afford health care every day and others who postpone treatment because of the costs.

On the ballot

In Summit County, a particularly high-priced place for health care insurance, family practitioner Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos said she personally avoided a hospital visit when she felt chest pains recently because of her new $6,000 deductible.
“It’s just so difficult for Americans to pay for health care,” she said. “The amount you pay for the value you get is out of proportion.”…

The amendment, which will be on the state ballot in November, starts from the basic idea that 10 percent of employment income — two-thirds from employers, one-third from employees — will pour into a government-controlled fund.

Opposed by hospitals

…The Colorado Hospital Association has taken a firm stance against the plan, contending it would “threaten the sustainability of Colorado hospitals and health systems.”

One overriding concern among Colorado hospitals is that a state-run system would pay them less than it costs to treat patients and leave them unable to balance the books with private insurance payments.

The association says it already loses money on Medicaid patients, to the tune of $1.8 billion in “undercompensated care” in 2014.

“Without private insurance — and in a single public payer model used by ColoradoCare — hospital underpayment is likely to spread,” it says, creating a serious financial risk.

In a position paper, the association also suggests that ColoradoCare “would not likely incentivize consumers to use the health care system efficiently because low sensitivity to prices can lead to overconsumption of health care services.”

State Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat and medical doctor, disputes that idea.

She cites her experience with an office secretary she treated for 20 years, a woman who ended up costing the health care system and shortening her life because of high sensitivity to prices.

The woman had diabetes. Once a year, she would come to Aguilar for a checkup. She would say she had no insurance and no sick leave. When prescribed medicines, she would ask which three were most important because she couldn’t afford them all.

Her kidneys failed, which qualified her for Medicare and dialysis treatments. Dialysis sickened her. She lost her job, qualifying for Social Security disability payments. Amputation and heart disease followed.

Aguilar called her patient a classic reason to provide health care to all. “A secretary living on the edge,” she said. “She was dead by 64.”

In the opponents’ camp, Duffy said the small group of people who fashioned Colorado’s universal health care initiative are good-hearted.

But “their solution is very damaging to the state going forward,” he said, putting Colorado in a unique but treacherous situation.

“Can one state really do it?” he asked. “Can one state boil the ocean?”

Read the full story in the The Denver Post

Check out this article on the state of healthcare in Colorado: Colorado Health Report Card: Better Grades For Kids, Less So For Seniors

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