DiannePrimavera_0

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

If there’s any industry in need of some disinfecting-via-sunlight, it’s our health care system and its unfair billing practices.

That is why Gov. Jared Polis and myself have made tackling this issue a top priority of our administration.

We all come into contact with the health care system in our lives. Some more often than others.

I’ve seen our health care system through many lenses: as a policymaker, an administrator, an advocate, and unfortunately as a four-time cancer survivor.

A cancer diagnosis can turn your life upside down in an instant. I lost my job, my insurance, even my marriage — and I had to figure out how to put food on the table for my two little girls, who were just 3 and 5 at the time. And they had to figure out how to cope with the reality that their mom was dying.

Medical diagnoses can wreak such havoc in our lives. During those times, we should be able to focus on healing and getting the care we need.

Instead, the American health care system forces us to fight an illness with one hand and shockingly outrageous medical costs with the other.

Americans pay more than anyone else in the world for medical care, with mediocre outcomes and one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the industrialized world.

Combine the rising cost of health care with stagnant wages, and it’s no wonder that the American middle class is disappearing.

We have to do better. But the lack of transparency in health care billing has made it difficult for policymakers and ordinary Coloradans to press for change. Until now.

This year, the Legislature passed, and Gov. Polis signed, two landmark bipartisan bills to protect Coloradans from skyrocketing health bills.

The first is a law demanding pricing transparency from hospitals. Hospitals provide a vital service, especially in rural areas of our state, but they also eat up almost 40% of health care costs. Any conversation about reducing health care costs has to start with hospitals.

And we can’t work on reducing costs if we can’t see how these costs are determined in the first place.

By requiring hospitals to provide annual reports tracking their costs and spending, we can see behind the curtain and identify the key cost drivers that often lead to sky-high bills for consumers.

We will be able to differentiate between hospitals in different regions of the state so that we don’t paint Front Range and rural hospitals with the same brush, and it will allow us to figure out what we need to do to make care more affordable for Coloradans everywhere.

And as additional reforms are implemented, we will be able to track whether savings from reform efforts are passed on to consumers.

The second piece of landmark bipartisan legislation is a ban on surprise out-of-network billing.

For years, policymakers like myself have heard stories about patients who receive treatment thinking that their care is all in-network with their health insurance company but wind up being treated, unbeknownst to them, by an out-of-network provider who bills them an exorbitant amount for the care they received.

Thanks to this new legislation, consumers will no longer face surprise, out of network charges.

This will not only help consumers who should not have to pay these charges, it will also help lower the cost of health care by reducing the amounts out-of-network providers can charge health plans for services provided to their members.

These are just two of the many steps that the Polis-Primavera administration is taking to reduce the high cost of health care in our state.

By shining a light on health care costs and ending abusive practices, we can deliver the financial relief that Coloradans are desperately seeking.

Dianne Primavera is Colorado’s lieutenant governor.

Dianne Primavera is Colorado's Lieutenant Governor.

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