Letter: We need a public health care option now more than ever
Universal health care is central to the physical, fiscal and political well-being of a nation. Nowhere is that more evident than in the United States, the wealthiest nation in the world.
In our country, 28.3 million people live without health insurance. Americans have died, gone bankrupt and become disabled because private health insurance is unaffordable. During the current COVID-19 crisis we have seen the African American community experience higher levels of the disease and death largely due to inequalities in access to health care. We have seen people suffer and die from COVID 19, turned away from urgent care clinics and hospitals because they do not have health insurance.
In Colorado the problem is made worse because:
• Colorado has some of the highest health insurance premiums in the country. Between 2010 and 2017, health insurance deductibles rose 65%.
• In 2018, Colorado hospitals had the second-highest profits per hospital stay in the country.
• Hospitals promised lower costs as insurance coverage expanded. Instead, they continued to raise costs and increased profits off the backs of consumers.
• Since 2008, hospitals have received $3.85 billion for uncompensated care but did not use those additional taxpayer dollars to lower costs for Coloradans.
In the months prior to the pandemic, Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep. Dylan Roberts created House Bill 1349 advocating for a Colorado public option. By utilizing existing infrastructure, the cost of care would be driven downward without increasing taxes. Colorado taxpayers would not have to bear any financial risk for paying high cost medical claims.
House Bill 1349 would have:
• Increased competition so residents have a choice of at least two health insurance options.
• Held hospitals accountable to lower costs, while maintaining healthy and fair profit margins.
• Forced insurers to spend more money on improving health care.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the public option is now on hold. In the meantime, more and more Coloradans are losing access to their employer-based insurance as jobs are lost.
A public option could bring meaningful reform, protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition.
Thank you to Rep. Roberts and Sen. Donovan for setting the stage for a future Colorado public option. The current crisis has made it even more obvious that our healthcare system is broken. We need to get the public option across the finish line sooner rather than later. Lives are depending on it.
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