Due to lifestyle trends and impact, Coloradans are a relatively healthy bunch. But just how healthy are we, comparatively speaking? While growth in health care spending in Colorado has continued to outpace growth in the rest of the economy, recent data provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services highlights the state’s progress in controlling the cost curve. Colorado currently ranks 5th lowest among all states in per capita health spending—around $6,800. Colorado also has the 4th lowest average annual health spending growth rate across an 11-year period, at 3.7 percent. Year-over-year hospital spending grew just 0.8 percent between June 2016 and June 2017, the lowest annual growth rate since January of 1989.


So, what does this mean? Hospitals and health systems are working to meet consumer demand by improving hospital price transparency and affordability. Though Colorado continues to encounter challenges to healthcare, Coloradans are satisfied with their health; almost 75% of Coloradans report that the current health care system meets the needs of their families.


Not Resting on Our Laurels

Colorado has also historically ranked well for both transparency and affordability in national studies and indexes. This comes as the result of Colorado’s APCD, which includes a rich data source with meaningful and accessible price information for consumers. In fact, the preeminent annual survey of statewide health care transparency efforts—the Report Card on State Transparency Laws, which is published by the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Institute—gives Colorado a grade of “A.” By contrast, 43 states received an “F.”


Though Colorado has made significant improvements and important progress toward helping consumers better understand their healthcare options, state research shows that, even when information is available, consumers may not always use it. According to a state study, more than 1.5 million Coloradans do not look into what their health plan covers before getting services, and 1.2 million people say they don’t check if a doctor is in their network before receiving care. If Colorado’s healthcare is to be truly accessible, hospitals and medical professionals must continue to improve price transparency and encourage consumers to understand the financial consequences of health care decisions.


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