Health care: accessibility good, affordability bad

Grand Valley residents have a lot for which to be grateful in living in a growing hub for health care in Western Colorado. But even as the construction of new facilities improves the accessibility of locally delivered services, rising insurance premiums make affordability more problematic.

It seems nearly every issue of the Business Times includes stories about new health care facilities and services. That includes a $4.5 million expansion at Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center in Fruita that will accommodate
so-called transitional patients who no longer require intensive care, but still need rehabilitation and other services.

The Business Times reports in this very issue on plans to open a heart and vascular health center at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction.
The $48.5 million facility scheduled to open in January 2019 will offer care currently unavailable without traveling to Denver or Salt Lake City.

This edition of the paper also reports on plans to expand the West Springs psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction, a $34 million project expected to double the number of patients that can be treated there.

That’s not to mention the opening of a new health sciences building at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, a state-of-the-art facility that adds to a health care training program that already enjoys a reputation as one of the best in the state.

Of course, Community Hospital opened a brand new campus in Grand Junction a little more than a year ago.

All this constitutes good news for the Grand Valley not only in terms of the extensive health care services available in new facilities, but also the substantial economic effects of the sector. It’s a tide that lifts a lot of business boats.

The less good news remains the rising cost of health care and health insurance.

According to the Colorado Division of Insurance, small group premiums for businesses with two to 100 employers will increase an average of 6.6 percent in 2018. Premiums for individual plans will jump an average of 26.7 percent — a proportion big enough to qualify as whopping.

Granted, premiums vary considerably from carrier to carrier and location to location. And the last time we checked, federal tax credits were still available to qualifying consumers to help offset the cost of insurance. But the overall trend of health care costs and health care insurance continues skyward at a pace that far exceeds inflation.

It’s a challenge that persists for health care. The industry is really good at developing new medications, technologies and treatments that are nothing short of miraculous in saving lives and improving the quality of lives. It’s unfortunate similar innovations haven’t been forthcoming to make that miraculous care more affordable.

It’s not a problem for the health care industry alone, or a local or statewide issue. It’s a problem for everyone on a national scale.

So we count our blessings as new facilities deliver the best in health care right here in the Grand Valley. But even as accessibility increases, affordability decreases. We can only pray a cure is soon forthcoming to that particular ailment.