State report finds excessive Colorado hospital profits

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DENVER | Colorado hospitals’ per-patient profits reached their highest levels in a decade in 2018, according to a state report released Thursday that comes amid mounting industry opposition to a public health insurance option.

Hospitals earned an average per-patient profit of $1,518 in 2018, compared to $538 in 2009, said the report by the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

The department insisted that inflation and expenses alone don’t explain the increase, The Colorado Sun reported.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ administration wants to curb hospital pricing as part of its health care affordability agenda. It supports a prospective public health insurance option designed to lower insurer rates across the board.

Health industry groups are waging an ad campaign against a public option, while hospital associations insist profits aren’t excessive.

Peter Banko, chief executive officer of the Centura Health system, told the Sun this week that hospitals use their profits to replace aging equipment, reduce debt and sustain reserves in an uncertain regulatory market.

Thursday’s report suggests that hospitals, as a whole, overcharged the privately insured to make up for low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.

In a statement, the Colorado Hospital Association said the Polis administration should instead address those reimbursement rates.

The department used hospital association data to produce its report. That data didn’t include individual hospital profits.