There’s no doubt that Colorado lawmakers have been working hard over the last few years to address the high cost of health care in our state, but there is still work to do. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, many Coloradans are struggling with their health more than ever before, and we need to create a robust health care system that is affordable and dependable to keep Colorado families healthy. 

I’m a patient with pulmonary fibrosis, a condition characterized by scarring of the lungs, and for the past several years, my life has been consumed with managing my condition and getting the health care I need simply to breathe. Things went from bad to worse when I caught COVID before vaccines were available. I lost 17% of my lung function and went from only needing oxygen at night to needing it all the time and being listed for a lung transplant. 

People who have chronic conditions are constantly working to manage their symptoms, and that means they’re hugely reliant on our health care system just to get by in their day-to-day lives. They’re also keenly aware of the flaws in this system. Not only is essential health care often completely unaffordable, but it can sometimes feel like an impossible quest to get clear information from insurers to figure out what’s covered and how much we’ll be expected to pay. Too often, our time and energy are spent battling with health insurance companies, rather than focusing on leading healthy, happy, productive lives. 

Governor Polis has put saving people money on health care at the top of his priority list, and with his leadership and that of state lawmakers, Colorado has been able to pass a variety of bills in recent years that make health care more affordable for Coloradans. For one, we now have a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which will research, review, and limit costs for the most expensive prescription drugs and investigate sharp cost increases. Lawmakers also passed a bill to create a Colorado health insurance option, which will lower the cost of premiums for those purchasing insurance on the individual market, and a reinsurance program, which is stabilizing the costs of premiums on the individual market. Despite these recent wins, too many Colorado patients are still struggling to get the care they need, and it will take a long-term, sustained push for a variety of bold reforms to create a health care system that truly meets the needs of Colorado families. 

The data are clear — Coloradans are still struggling with health care costs, and we need to do everything we can to ensure families don’t have to make the choice between paying rent and getting the health care they need. At a time when health insurance companies had record profits, two-thirds of Coloradans aren’t confident they can afford their usual health care needs under their existing coverage, according to a recent survey. Nearly half of Coloradans have put off a recommended surgery or treatment due to insurance denials, lack of affordability, or geographic barriers. 53% of Colorado families are concerned about how to pay for the medications they rely on. Nationwide, 1 in 10 adults have medical debt, and 11 million owe more than $2,000.

Too often, insurers take advantage of patients to protect their bottom line, rather than working toward a system of care that actually meets the needs of patients. I hope that Governor Polis and Colorado lawmakers will continue to work to make health care more reliable and affordable. We need to ensure that all Coloradans can truly depend on their health coverage when they need it most, so they can focus on getting and staying as healthy as possible.