As a legislator, you learn to identify red flags that could pose problems for your constituents you represent. That’s why, when a bill proposes to create a health care system using the “exercise of police powers,” it’s time to pay attention, especially if you value making your own health care decisions.
Recent legislation that would create a government-run “public option” for health care would have a detrimental impact on Colorado’s health care providers, taxpayers and economy. Particularly given everything our community, local businesses, and Coloradans have been through over the last year, House Bill 21-1232 is not an option for our state.
Despite what proponents might claim, this bill seems to be tailor-made to set up Colorado’s health care community for failure, essentially setting the stage for government-run health care no matter what providers do to comply. If enacted, one study indicated that a public option could financially impact 78% of Colorado hospitals, resulting in $112 million in revenue losses.
Sadly, rather than lowering costs or improving patient access to care, these devastating cuts could do just the opposite. It is short-sighted to think that we can improve health care by slashing reimbursements to the very providers working to keep our communities healthy and safe, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only will a public option approach to health care hurt our most vulnerable communities first, but it would make many Coloradans a lot more vulnerable. Another study highlights just how devastating this approach would be for Colorado’s rural hospitals and health care providers, finding that it could increase revenue losses for rural hospitals by more than 40%.
Many of these facilities are hardly able to keep their doors open as it is. For rural providers operating on razor-thin margins, the losses brought on by a government-run health care system could force them to cut critical services, reduce staff, or close their doors all together. In any of these scenarios, rural patients and communities lose. That is not how health care reform should work.
Not to mention, this legislation could leave taxpayers fully on the hook. No matter how you do the math, funding a statewide public option will require taxpayer dollars.
Colorado certainly doesn’t have the funds to support such a massive system as it is, with state revenue expected to decline by $3 billion and Medicaid spending increased by more than $540 million.
The state has no business creating a health care insurance system. The only other state in the country that has attempted to do so, Washington, is now seeing premiums that are nearly 30% more expensive than what was available through the ACA’s marketplace last year. We should be learning from their mistakes, not seeking to emulate them.
It is hard to understand why lawmakers would turn a blind eye to our state’s health care and insurance communities — who were left out of discussions — that led to this misguided legislation. However, should this bill advance, then it is just a matter of time before the state government-run option will require additional funding, and when it does, where will Colorado get the funds —by cutting funding for K-12 education, wildfire mitigation, or other critical services?
A state government-run option is nothing more than an attempt by some lawmakers to assume control over the health care decisions that should be made by Coloradans and their doctors. Colorado’s current health care landscape — with its multitude of choices of research hospitals, innovative medical facilities, and cutting-edge treatment centers — will fade as our health care community struggles to adapt to the demands and limitations of a public option amid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the good of Colorado communities and our entire combined health care system, I urge my colleagues in the General Assembly to oppose creating a new, state government-run public option. Instead, let’s work together to pass practical policies that will improve access and lower costs for Coloradans without a massive overhaul of our entire health care system.
Tonya Van Beber, a Republican from Eaton, represents District 48 in the Colorado State House.