A MESSAGE FROM DENVER HEALTH
Our Care in the Community is Essential
Potential State Funding Cuts to Your Community Hospital
Note: A version of this appeared in the Denver Post as an Op-Ed
To our patients and community:
While there is a lot of current discussion around the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, another health care funding issue is poised to hit much closer to home for Colorado residents. The Colorado state government is proposing a large funding cut to state hospitals through the Hospital Provider Fee (HPF). The loss to Denver Health is $48 million, which would result in reductions to vital, life-saving services. Beyond Denver, these funding cuts will curtail services at rural hospitals and even cause some to close, forcing entire communities to travel great distances to access care. This funding cut is avoidable and has nothing to do with federal health care reform.
Action is needed now to safeguard essential health care services for all Coloradans.
Denver Health is the state’s leading provider of care to low-income people, and we are reliant on governmental funding to carry out our mission. In 2016, Denver Health provided nearly $208 million in charity and unreimbursed care to the Denver community. This level of service would not be possible without state funds provided by the HPF.
The HPF is a charge assessed to hospitals by the state, based on the number of patients served by the hospital. The state money is pooled, matched with federal funds, and returned to Colorado hospitals. The amount each hospital receives is in proportion to the number of Medicaid patients cared for by the hospital. This fee allows organizations like Denver Health to provide needed care to those who cannot afford it.
The proposed reductions in HPF funding would require Denver Health to scale back vital services across our entire network. Denver Health is an integrated health care system that includes a 525-bed acute care hospital in downtown Denver, an extensive network of community and school-based health centers located throughout Denver County, and outpatient and inpatient treatment for mental health problems and addictions.
With the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, we markedly increased access to primary care and mental health and addictions treatment. Visits to our community health centers increased from 466,269 in 2013 to 597,354 in 2016 (a 28 percent increase), while visits to our emergency department remained stable. This confirms that our efforts to ensure patients receive the right care in the right places have paid off. A funding cut of $48 million will decrease access in our community clinics, which will shift the burden of care back to our emergency department. Cuts in services will increase overall medical expenses because it shifts care to much more expensive sites – the emergency department and the hospital.
Nationally, we are in the midst of an opioid drug addiction epidemic. Last year, there were two opioid overdose deaths per week in Denver County alone. Denver Health has doubled the size of our outpatient addiction treatment services to address this growing problem. Even with the increase, the demand for treatment continues to exceed capacity. This demand, coupled with funding cuts, would result in many more patients being turned away.
Denver Health works hard to be good stewards of our resources so we can continue our mission to provide care to all residents in the Denver metro area without regard to their ability to pay. If lawmakers cannot reach a compromise in this state funding debate, Denver Health, along with many other hospitals, will be forced to make deep cuts to vital programs.
There is a simple solution. By moving the HPF to an enterprise fund, it would decrease or even eliminate the cuts to all Colorado hospitals. We urge you, as a member of our community, to contact your lawmakers and request they work together to find a solution to this dire situation.
You can contact your legislator by identifying his/her contact info here: http://leg.colorado.gov/find-my-legislator
Chairman, Denver Health & Hospital Authority Board of Directors
Chairman, Denver Community Health Services Board of Directors