Rising Health Care Costs in Colorado: How much are health care costs increasing and why is no simple answer

DENVER, Colorado – Health care costs are on the rise, leading to some astonishing bills for patients in the state. According to the Center for Improving Value in Health Care in Denver, prescription drug payments by patients and health insurers in Colorado skyrocketed by 97% between 2013 and 2020, and overall health care payments per person averaged $7,200 in 2020, representing a 27% increase from 2013. The portion paid out-of-pocket by patients with commercial insurance also saw a significant 22% jump to $870 per person. Such exorbitant costs are causing a financial strain on Coloradans and are a cause for concern.

The complexity of health care means that costs can vary significantly based on individual circumstances and decisions. Priya Telang, the communications manager for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, stated that there are numerous components to consider in the health care industry that contribute to the overall cost.

The impact of rising health care costs was exemplified by a family’s experience with a pediatric emergency department visit. The visit, which initially seemed routine, resulted in a $2,110 bill, highlighting the surprising and sometimes overwhelming expenses associated with seeking medical care.

Furthermore, the increasing popularity of high-deductible health insurance plans has led to a situation where individuals may be required to pay considerable amounts out-of-pocket before insurance coverage kicks in. As a result, many people are deterred from seeking necessary medical care, contributing to the affordability crisis in health care.

The data from the Center for Improving Value in Health Care revealed a 27% increase in per capita payments to doctors and medical providers in Colorado between 2013 and 2020. Outpatient services also experienced a 33% increase in per capita payments. These figures underscore the significant financial burden faced by Coloradans due to the rising costs of health care.

Despite the escalating expenses, positive trends such as record-low uninsured rates in Colorado and reduced insurance premium prices offer some relief. The Affordable Care Act has played a pivotal role in mitigating the financial impact of health care costs on residents. However, the disparities in affordability are still evident, emphasizing the need for informed decision-making and proactive measures to manage health care expenses.

The overall uptick in health care costs is a cause for concern, prompting individuals and families to adopt strategies to navigate the complex and often burdensome landscape of health care expenses. From practical choices in selecting insurance plans to understanding billing procedures and advocating for fairness in billing, there are various approaches to mitigate the financial strain of health care costs. As the challenges persist, the quest for affordability and accessibility in health care continues.