Misleading data shared in Colorado report

Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing misrepresents data in attacks on Colorado hospitals
Jan. 18, 2023

In its latest report and news release, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing (HCPF) shares misleading information about Colorado hospitals. By misrepresenting hospitals’ financial environment and investments in Colorado’s health care workforce, research and community benefits, HCPF threatens medical care, quality and access for patients in the state.

Hospitals’ financial situation has changed significantly since 2021, and operating margins have dropped considerably because of inflation and wage increases. Making financial or policy decisions based on HCPF’s dated and misleading information could be disastrous for our state and result in reduced access for hospitals, fewer clinical trials, reduced support for education to train future nurses and physicians, and even job losses.

As an example, UCHealth’s current operating margin is nowhere near the figures in the report. UCHealth’s audited financial reports, show:

  • Fiscal year 2021: UCHealth operating margin was 9.9%.
  • Fiscal year 2022: UCHealth operating margin was 5.2%.
  • Fiscal year 2023 through December: UCHealth operating margin was 4%

As HCPF has done in past reports, it uses old data, picks date ranges when investments increased, and uses methodologies that do not follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Stock market ups and downs are not the same as income and do not present an accurate picture of financial health. Like any person or institution that has investments in the market, UCHealth has experienced substantial losses this past year. Nonetheless, every dollar that we make stays in Colorado and is reinvested in our patients, communities, and employees.

HCPF also suggests that Colorado’s nonprofit hospitals do not provide enough community benefit investment or support behavioral health. In fact, the Lown Institute recently ranked UCHealth among the nation’s best in social responsibility, community benefit, value and patient outcomes. In fiscal year 2022, UCHealth spent $1.1 billion on financial assistance, subsidized care, and other areas to directly benefit patients and communities, including $388 million in uncompensated care. UCHealth is the largest provider of Medicaid services in Colorado, as nearly 25% of Colorado Medicaid patients are cared for at UCHealth. UCHealth has also increased its investment in behavioral health services by $150 million, including adding 49 additional inpatient behavioral health beds, and providing tens of thousands of virtual and in-person behavioral health visits.

Hospitals in Colorado are facing serious financial challenges. The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) reports that CO hospitals’ expenses are 21% higher than pre-pandemic levels, with staffing expenses up more than 26%. Inflation has also increased the costs of the supplies, services and medications hospitals need to care for patients, resulting in significantly lower margins. The information that our policy makers act on must be accurate and current. UCHealth looks forward to working with the state’s legislature and administration to ensure the highest quality care for Coloradans.

About the author

Dan Weaver leads UCHealth’s communications team including public relations, internal and external communications. He joined UCHealth in 2011 as media relations coordinator for University of Colorado Hospital. Prior to joining UCHealth, Weaver was a reporter, photographer and medical producer at KUSA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Denver, CO, and WLTX TV, the CBS affiliate in Columbia, SC.