ICYMI: The State Government Option Could Exacerbate Racial Health Disparities

Mar 30, 2021

DENVER – In a recent opinion piece in Colorado Politics, Dr. Terri Richardson, an internal medicine specialist in Denver, discussed the proposed state government option and its potential impact on racial and ethnic minority communities in Colorado.  

Dr. Richardson wrote: “…establishing a new, state government-run public option could ultimately hurt the very communities it is purportedly designed to help, leaving racial and ethnic minorities communities behind yet again.”

Dr. Richardson continued: “It is simply not going to be possible to enforce government mandates that set arbitrarily low rates across the health care spectrum without an adverse impact on patient access. Especially in rural and underserved areas, slashing rates will likely only lead to a mass exodus of qualified doctors, contributing to a shortage of physicians that is already taking its toll on at-risk communities.” 

recent report by FTI Consulting found a Colorado state government option could financially impact 78 percent of all Colorado hospitals, totaling $112 million in losses annually, and threaten access to care for Coloradans, especially among members of racial and ethnic minority communities. Over 40 percent of hospitals that could be at higher risk for closure disproportionately serve Black, Latinx, and Native American residents, the report finds.

The report is the latest evidence that Colorado lawmakers, including members of the House Health & Insurance Committee, who are scheduled to consider HB21-1232, should slow down, weigh the facts and work together to build on and improve what’s working in health care instead of starting over.

Key Findings:

  • During this critical time, the state government option could financially impact 78 percent of all Colorado hospitals.
  • Today, racial and ethnic minorities in Colorado comprise one-third of the state’s total population, yet 40 percent of Colorado hospitals that could be at higher risk for closure under the state government option disproportionately serve these communities.
  • Hospitals fill a critical gap in care for Black and Hispanic/Latinx Coloradans, many of whom already contend with significant disparities in health status, access, and outcomes, and must rely more heavily on hospital services to meet basic health care needs.
  • Native Americans in rural areas could also see their access to care threatened. This builds on a previous report, which found 23 rural hospitals could be at increased risk of closure under the state government option.