Summit County health care costs highest in nation

Last week, Bloomberg reported on the high costs of health care in rural, and ski areas of Colorado. The report covered recent trends in health care costs and access, as well as policies that aim to provide remedies. 

The report comes days after Gov. Jared Polis announced a health care pool plan that would encourage city and county governments and public health officials to ban together to lower the cost of health care. He expects the results of his plan to be in effect by 2021.  

 

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Here are some of the stand-out cost-related data points from their report: 

Summit County pays some of the highest insurance premiums in the entire nation. Rep. Dylan Roberts discussed this in a Q&A during the legislative session; Gov. Polis also spoke to these high costs in a bill signing. 

From 2015 to 2019, the cost of a midlevel health plan for a single 40-year-old in Summit County more than doubled to $606 a month, 34% above the national average, the report revealed. These types of high costs are typical in areas where the community is served by only one hospital, or where people have to travel long distances to receive care. 

 

The report explains that average prices paid by commercial health plans to hospitals vary between 150% and 400% of the rates paid by Medicare. In Summit County, at St. Anthony’s Summit County Medical Center, the prices for procedures are as much as eleven times what Medicare would have paid. Emergency services, similarly, were paid at a rate eight times what they would be in Denver. 

This new data comes just days before the Trump administration signed an executive order requiring additional price transparencies in health care, a step that may end up saving residents of Summit County, among others, money. 

The county has one hospital to negotiate with. If prices become more transparent this would give patients more bargaining power, a tool that is especially useful in a region where the cost of care is highest, despite the limited resources. If patients are aware of the price of medical services across the state, the ability for rural hospitals to charge more should decrease, in theory.  

Plans to pool health bargaining power and increased transparency are presumed to have impacts on the cost of care in Summit County.