Panel issues final report on rising health costs

Free-standing emergency rooms, provider rates in rural parts of the state and “opportunistic” drug pricing are contributing to the rising costs of health care in Colorado, a state commission charged with examining such things reported Friday.

In issuing its third report in as many years, the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care said there are a multitude of things impacting health care costs. As a result, the state — and nation — needs a multi-faceted approach to adequately address them.

The commission, created by the Colorado Legislature in 2014, made numerous recommendations, but cautioned state policy-makers to be careful not to focus on any one possible solution.

“Addressing the rising cost of health care is a complex matter, and one of great interest to many throughout the state,” William Lindsay III, chairman of the commission, wrote to state lawmakers.

“We urge you and your colleagues in the General Assembly to neither rush to judgment when attributing cause for the rising costs, nor in developing legislative solutions,” Lindsay wrote. “Every facet of our health care system is connected. Pulling one string to attempt to reduce the overall cost can create unintended market reactions, possibly making matters worse.”

The panel’s recommendations are wide and varied. They range from better using medical professionals to help in delivering care to helping to lower the costs of prescription medications, partly by allowing drug importation from other countries.

The report, the commission’s last, also focuses greatly on the high cost of health care in rural parts of the state.

On that issue, the panel recommends such things as more widely publicizing what providers are charging not only so patients can better shop for care, but also so providers can know what their competitors are charging.

While some of the high costs stem from out-of-state forces, the state can have an impact on pricing, the report said.

“Colorado does have the ability to impact many of the issues identified in our report and we have suggested regulatory and market approaches to address these areas,” Lindsay wrote. “Examples of areas of particular note include issues related to rural health care costs, the value of preschool education for children within the Medicaid population, and the problem of substance abuse in Colorado.”


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