The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by our guest columnists do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of this publication.
Alejandro López Wilson / Doctor and lawyer
Lawmakers in Denver definitely have their work cut out for them when it comes to improving Colorado’s health care system. Access to high-quality, comprehensive, and affordable health care should be available to all Coloradans, regardless of where they live or how much money they make. However, all too often, ethnic and minority communities face distinct disparities when it comes to our health care system, both here in Colorado and across the country.
However, instead of addressing the root causes of these disparities, some lawmakers in Denver are pushing for a state government-run health care option that could make things significantly worse for Black, Latinx, and other minority populations across the state. Even the best of intentions cannot prevent the so-called “public option” from wreaking havoc on our health care system and creating new hurdles for already vulnerable communities. Lawmakers should proceed very carefully.
As a recent study points out, a state government option would translate to revenue losses for 78 percent of Colorado hospitals, totaling up to $112 million in losses annually once it is fully implemented. More than 40 percent of the hospitals that would be placed at a higher risk of closure as a result of these cuts under the state government option serve racial and ethnic minority communities, according to the report, many of which already face disparities an access, outcomes, and quality of care as it is.
That same study also makes a very valid point that Colorado hospitals play a critical role in providing access to medical care for Black and Latinx Coloradans. Many of these vulnerable patients rely on hospital services to access basic medical care. If the hospitals serving these communities are put in danger by policies passed in Denver, then it will only make access and affordability challenges that much worse for at-risk patients.
Hispanic and Latinx Coloradans represent the largest minority population in the state. Due to the discrepancies and disparities in our health care system, our community is also more susceptible to chronic disease than non-Hispanic white Coloradans, according to the report. A state government-run public option that slashes reimbursements to the very hospitals working to serve our communities will only lead to poor outcomes for racial and ethnic minority groups statewide.
On top of all that, it appears as though the Colorado public option will not even do very much to lower the uninsured rate in our state. According to projections, the uninsured rate would only drop by 0.3 percentage points, a mere drop in the bucket compared to the overall population. Lawmakers should stop wasting their time on unproven, unworkable “solutions” that would do next to nothing to solve the problems we face.
We can all agree that health care costs are too high and that we should be doing more to ensure access and availability for historically disadvantage and underserved communities. But the proposed state government option would do nothing to address these issues, and could in fact worsen existing disparities in our health care system in minority communities. Lawmakers should go back to the drawing board and work together in a bipartisan fashion to fix the health care system we have rather than trying to build one from the ground up that won’t work as well.
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