Colorado hospitals refute governor's 'unfounded' financial claims

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis claimed in his State of the State address that one key reason healthcare costs so much is that hospitals are overcharging patients, with some large health systems posting record profits and sitting on significant cash reserves, according to CPR News. The Colorado Hospital Association disputes these claims.

"Some large hospital systems are making record profits, paying zero taxes and sitting on enormous reserves while overcharging customers. Meanwhile, they are consolidating providers, which drives up costs and leaves fewer options for Coloradans," Mr. Polis said during the Jan. 17 address. "It's time that we hold them accountable."

The governor's comments are at odds with recent CHA financial data, which found that most Colorado hospitals are operating under "unsustainable financial situations."

A CHA report published Jan. 11 found that Colorado hospitals' operating margins have dropped 49 percent below 2019 levels, with total expenses in 2022 up 21 percent — including a 26 percent increase in staffing costs — over pre-pandemic levels.

The association pushed back against the governor's "unfounded" claims that hospitals have not "held up their end of the bargain" to reduce healthcare costs.

"Unfortunately, we continue to hear rhetoric against the hospitals and health systems that have worked diligently on healthcare quality, access and affordability," CHA said in a statement to Becker's. "Colorado's hospitals and health systems have been working with the administration on many of these programs, including reinsurance, hospital discounted care, price transparency, out-of-network patient protections, and more."

CHA said Colorado hospitals exceed the national average on investments in their communities, including programs for behavioral and maternity health and social determinants of health. 

In 2020, the Colorado hospitals invested more than $1.6 billion into the health and wellbeing of community-based priorities, according to CHA, with recent CMS data also indicating that Coloradans spend $692 less per person (or 18 percent) on hospital costs than the U.S. average.

Becker's has reached out to the governor's office for comment.

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