On Tuesday evening, the Colorado Springs City Council rejected a plan to expand health insurance for city workers. It would have allowed for health care coverage for other adults in the household---whether that means an elderly parent, a common-law heterosexual partner, or a same sex partner.
No matter where you stand on the issue, one fact remains: The ranks of the uninsured in Colorado just keep growing. At Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, the number of uninsured patients has doubled from a year ago. And that greatly impacts the cost of health care.
The emergency room at Memorial Hospital is always busy. No patient is ever turned away. And more and more often, many of those patients don't have health insurance. "We're currently seeing 40 patients a day without insurance. A year ago it was 20 a day without insurance," says Gary Flansburg, Memorial’s Chief Financial Officer.
The hospital is now paying about $14 million a year to treat uninsured patients. That's up from $8 million a year ago. The money has to come from somewhere. "The patients with insurance with resources are basically picking up the tab for the patients who don't have the resources to pay,” says Flansburg.
Executives with Memorial Hospital blame the city's sluggish economy for the dramatic jump among the uninsured. People have lost jobs, along with their health coverage. "Right now, people are making decisions like, ‘I either pay my rent or buy health insurance.’ You're going to meet your most immediate needs," says Chief Operating Officer Cherie Gorby.
Hospital administrators say they're disturbed by this rising trend, but they say it's happening everywhere. "I don't know if there's a solution. It's an age-old problem. Hopefully the economy will turn around and more people without insurance will again be covered with insurance," says Flansburg.
Memorial Hospital has been operating at a profit for many years. And officials they hope to continue that trend. But financial projections for next year are not as good as they've been in the past.