Report: Colorado’s State Government Option Could Worsen Existing Barriers To Care For Racial And Ethnic Minorities

May 6, 2021

DENVER – As Colorado lawmakers continue to debate House Bill 21-1232 today, a new report warns that creating a new state government-controlled health insurance system in Colorado, known as the state government option, could financially impact 78 percent of all Colorado hospitals, totaling up to $112 million in losses annually. As a result, over 40 percent of hospitals that could be at higher risk for closure disproportionately serve Black, Latinx, and Native American residents.

Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this financial impact could exacerbate stresses on Colorado’s health care system and worsen the existing barriers to care for racial and ethnic minorities. “Should the state government option threaten the viability of health care providers that serve racial and ethnic minority communities, these barriers could amplify their existing health care access challenges,” the report, conducted by FTI Consulting and supported by the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future Action, finds.

Colorado’s communities of color already disproportionately face challenges and barriers to accessing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and disparities in vaccination, infection and death rates have intensified the long-standing inequities in health care.

For example, Colorado’s Latinx community accounts for more than 25 percent of the state’s total cases while comprising just over 20 percent of the total population, and the disparity in vaccinations remains largest among the Latinx community. As of April 2021, white residents in Colorado were two times more likely to have received the COVID-19 vaccine than Hispanic/Latinx residents. Colorado’s communities of color, particularly Latinx communities, tend to have greater distrust in government and believe government officials may not be the ones best equipped to allocate resources in an equitable way.

Lawmakers must consider the larger implications of HB21-1232 that could have vast, negative consequences on Colorado’s health care landscape — particularly in underserved Colorado communities, including those in rural parts of the state and those with a higher proportion of racial and ethnic minority patients. While the vast majority of Colorado hospitals could be negatively impacted by the state government option, the latest report from FTI demonstrates a new state government-controlled health insurance system could exacerbate health care disparities during this critical time.

Instead of pushing forward with an unaffordable new state government-controlled health insurance system, lawmakers should slow down, weigh the facts and work together to build on and improve what’s working in health care to lower costs, protect patient choice, expand access, improve quality and support facilities that serve communities where the needs are greatest.

Key Findings: 

  • During this critical time, a 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 twenty-three rural hospitals could be at increased risk of closure under the state government option.
  • Colorado’s communities of color have faced similar challenges and barriers accessing healthcare coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. By late April of 2021, White residents had received 80 percent of the state’s vaccinations, while Hispanic/LatinX residents had received just 10 percent.

To read the complete report from FTI Consulting titled, “Colorado Government Option: Impact on Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups,” CLICK HERE.

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About FTI Consulting: FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations manage change, mitigate risk and resolve disputes: financial, legal, operational, political and regulatory, reputational and transactional.  With more than 4,700 employees located in 28 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges and make the most of opportunities.  For more information, visit www.fticonsulting.com.

About Colorado’s Health Care Future: Colorado’s Health Care Future is a project of Partnership for America’s Health Care Future Action.