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Are Healthcare Costs Coming Down in Colorado or Is that Just Cheap Talk?

With the November 6 election deadline fast approaching (thank goodness), it seemed appropriate to write about something that has oft been mentioned in the debates — healthcare. Or Obamacare if you prefer.

It turns out that the Lockton Employer Benefits Survey, which just came out on October 26, shows healthcare costs for businesses and employees in Colorado is, wait for it, going down.

By the numbers: Employer-provided health insurance costs will rise 7.4 percent in Colorado in 2013, down from a 9.4 percent jump in 2012 and 14.4 percent in 2011. Consider that Colorado had 11 years of double-digit increases prior to this, and perhaps there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Now, 7.4 percent is still quite a bit higher than general inflation, but it’s better than it was and has allowed Colorado to fall more in line with the national average, according to the survey. Even so, some of the reasons for its decline can be construed as troubling.

Analysts have said that employees are foregoing elective surgeries as the recession lingers, in effect keeping overall health spending down. And many employers are gravitating toward self-funded health plans, which tend to cost less than traditional insurers but have higher deductibles and more risk attached.

As with everything, there are supporters of this report, as well as those who are more cautionary. The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative hailed the report as encouraging news, saying that it reflects health reform efforts starting to work. Then there is Lockton Denver president Bill Lindsay, overseer of the survey, who warns that a portion of the decline might be due to political “convenience.”

Time will tell how everything plays out, of course, but this seems like it could be a promising sign for healthcare moving forward.

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