Denver-area hospitals made a record $2 billion in profits in 2018, according to a new report

Denver-area hospitals made a record $2 billion in profits in 2018, according to a new report

By John Ingold (September 13th, 2019)

For 25 years, health care analyst Allan Baumgarten has been studying the hospital market in Colorado, and his new report will show something it never has before: Denver-area hospitals surged past the $2 billion mark in profits in 2018.

The 27 metro-area hospitals Baumgarten includes in his report made just over $2 billion in pre-tax profits in 2018, compared with $1.7 billion in 2017 and $1.3 billion in 2016, according to his calculations.

The latest number represents a 19.3% profit margin for the hospitals, as a percent of net patient revenues, and it’s a full percentage point higher than the 18.1% margins hospitals reported in 2017, according to Baumgarten’s findings. The money the hospitals made from patient care increased 9.2% for Denver-area hospitals in 2018, while the hospitals’ cost of treating those patients increased only 4.1%. Inpatient hospital days — a measurement of patient volume — creeped up only about 1%.

“That’s the kind of spread a Wall Street analyst would find very impressive,” Baumgarten said Thursday at a meeting of the Colorado Business Group on Health, where he presented a first-look at his every-other-year report. The final report will be available in the coming weeks.

“That’s not a lot of growth,” he said of the patient volume figure. “That’s not a lot of increased utilization. That suggests to me that it’s not utilization that’s driving increased revenues, it’s the prices.”

Many hospitals outside of the metro area also turned solid — but not record — profits, according to the report. The 28 largest non-metro hospitals collectively made $769 million in pre-tax profits in 2018, down slightly from the $781 million they made in 2017. Their margins also fell, to 13.2% from 14.3%.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association said the association had identified “numerous significant errors” in an earlier version of Baumgarten’s data and had concerns about the accuracy of his figures. The spokeswoman, Julie Lonborg, said the association has not received a final report from Baumgarten and could not comment on specifics.

But she confirmed that hospitals saw increased profit overall in 2018.

“This is partially a function of Colorado’s strong economy and a focus on controlling costs as we work on improved affordability,” Lonborg wrote in an email.

Read Full Story at ColoradoSun.com

September Update

Well, it’s been another busy summer!

I’ll admit that I’ve made some time to get up into the mountains and enjoy our beautiful state, but I’ve also had plenty of work to keep me going. In addition to general meetings about constituent and policy issues that we might address next session, I’m serving on two interim committees that are each diving deep into big topics.

First, I’m in my third summer on the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders committee in which we’re continuing our work to improve prevention, treatment, and recovery services in Colorado. Second, I’m on the Investor-Owned Utility committee in which we are looking at the regulations that govern Xcel Energy and other IOUs to ensure we’re maximizing progress on moving toward clean energy while consumers are protected from any unfair billing practices.

It’s an interesting experience to get involved in so many diverse topics, and I continue to be grateful you all elected me to this crazy job.

One last thing. The Lakewood delegation will be resuming our monthly town halls this month, starting Saturday. September 21st at 10:00am at the West Metro Fire HQ (433 S Allison Pkwy, Lakewood). We’ve invited all of the 2019 Jeffco School Board candidates and the supporting and opposing campaigns for statewide and countywide ballot measures (CC, DD, & 1A).

Our next meetings will be on October 19th and November 16th, same time and location. Then we’ll skip December and start up again in January.

I hope to see you at one or more of the town halls, but if you can’t make it, you can always email me to share your thoughts and questions!

It’s Not Just For First Responders Anymore. Health Experts Want Regular Coloradans To Have Naloxone On Hand

It’s Not Just For First Responders Anymore. Health Experts Want Regular Coloradans To Have Naloxone On Hand

By John Daley (August 1st, 2019)

State health leaders want more Coloradans to get involved with fighting the opioid crisis. They want people to bring home naloxone, the life-saving medication that reverses an opioid overdose.

Last year, opioid overdoses claimed 543 lives in Colorado. But those numbers could have been lower, according to Robert Valuck, who spoke to a crowd Thursday from the steps of the state Capitol.

“One of our fellow citizens died from opioid overdose every 16 hours last year, and many of those people could have been saved by naloxone,” said Valuck, who heads the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.

His group is leading the $320,000 Bring Naloxone Home public awareness campaign, funded by the state. The goal is to spread the use of naloxone beyond medical providers and first responders. The campaign plans to get the word out through print, outdoor, transit, social media and online media.

Sen. Brittany Pettersen, a Democrat from Lakewood, explained she used the medication to help save her mother, who overdosed on heroin many times, and eventually got into recovery.

“Obviously people don’t have a chance of recovery and getting the treatment they need and living their fullest life if they’re not saved to begin with,” Pettersen said. “She would not have had the chance to move toward recovery, even with access to treatment, if first responders didn’t have naloxone, and if I didn’t have naloxone in my home.”

Another speaker, Michael Miller, said it saved his life three times when he was dealing with addiction.

“It was paramedics in all the cases of my overdose reversals. And I would absolutely be gone, if not for naloxone,” said Miller, who now works as Opioid Initiatives Coordinator for Jefferson County’s public health department.

Kathleen Hernandez knows how important it is to have it available. She went shopping at a King Soopers in an affluent part of Colorado Springs. A woman in her 20s collapsed at the entrance. Hernandez pulled out a naloxone kit from her purse and sprayed it up the woman’s nose.

“I think she would have died. I really do. She quit breathing, the guy she was with was freaking out. He obviously had been through it with her before, but I don’t know if she would have survived, I don’t think she would have,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez works in drug treatment center, as a recovery coordinator for Aspen Pointe, so it’s not surprising she carries naloxone. But she says many ordinary citizens don’t.

Democratic Rep. Chris Kennedy, of Lakewood, said those using opioids should have the medication nearby. “People who are using recreational pills have naloxone handy, it’ll be the best $75 you ever spent,” he said.

The cost is often lower than that and often covered by insurance.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams advises anyone exposed to opioids know how to use naloxone and purchase it to keep it nearby in an emergency. A standing order by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lets any Colorado resident buy the drug at a pharmacy simply by requesting it.

Naloxone has saved 1,122 lives in Colorado since 2017, according to the consortium. Now the goal is to save more.

Read Full Story at CPR.org

Kennedy Issues Statement on Supreme Court Gerrymandering Decision

By House Democrats (June 27th, 2019)

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this morning on partisan gerrymandering, Assistant Majority Leader Chris Kennedy, who serves as the chair of the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, issued the following statement:

“The Supreme Court’s decision today is devastating to our fundamental democratic principle of equal representation under the law, throwing the door wide open for states to advance partisan political gain over the interests of the people,” said Rep. Kennedy. “Over the past few years we have seen the Supreme Court erode the protections provided under the Voting Rights Act, and many states took swift action to restrict voting rights. Now politicians will be able to gerrymander with impunity, diluting the fair representation of underserved communities and drawing legislative maps to benefit their own parties.

“Thankfully, here in Colorado we have established guardrails to help prevent partisan influence in redistricting, but in much of the rest of the country, no such protections exist. It now falls to the states to step up and implement safeguards to ensure that voters pick their elected officials, not the other way around, and our core democracy is protected.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling today essentially declared that federal courts don’t have a role in protecting against political gerrymandering. In November 2018, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved legislatively-referred Amendments Y and Z to task independent commissions with drawing electoral maps for state legislative and Congressional districts. 

Read Full Story at COHouseDems.com

GOP blasted Democrats for the 2019 legislative session. But they supported nearly every bill, analysis shows.

GOP blasted Democrats for the 2019 legislative session. But they supported nearly every bill, analysis shows.

By Sandra Fish (June 19th, 2019)

This year, Republicans accused the Democratic majority at the state Capitol of political overreachstalled contentious legislation for hours and called for recall elections.

But the rancor belies the fact that at least one Republican lawmaker supported all but 19 of the 460 bills approved, meaning 96% won bipartisan support.

The broad agreement is not unusual given the large volume of minor legislation, but the degree to which Republicans sided with Democrats is noteworthy.

Half of the 40 Republicans in the legislature voted for 66% of the bills that passed this year.

The findings are part of a new analysis from The Colorado Sun that looked at the votes cast in the 2019 legislative session by all 100 state lawmakers. The numbers show the Democratic-led statehouse — the first after four years of divided rule — found plenty of middle ground despite partisan divides on big issues, such as oil and gas regulation, a red flag gun lawsex educationpaid family leave and more.

Democrats voted in lockstep on most issues. And much of the bipartisanship is owed to one Republican: Sen. Kevin Priola, an Adams County lawmaker eyeing a tough reelection in 2020 in a swing district. Priola voted for 90% of the bills that the Demcoratic majority advanced in the session.

“Obviously, if you take Kevin Priola out of the equation, the (bipartisan) number goes down quite a bit,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. “He is very much a member of their caucus. But he also partnered with us on several bills.”

Of the 441 bipartisan bills, 14 passed with only one Republican vote. Priola was the lone GOP vote in favor of seven of those, including a measure to tighten up reporting on campaign donations and another he co-sponsored to ask voters this fall to retain tax money collected above TABOR limits.

“I vote my district, and a lot of that comes from the tens of thousands of calls, conversations I’ve had with voters over the years,” Priola said, explaining his votes in an interview.

When weighing bills, he said he asks himself: “Would the average person at the door think this is reasonable and fair and thought-out and will work, or will the average person think this isn’t going to work?”

In all, nine Republicans in the House and Senate voted with the Democratic majority nearly 70% of the time or more, according to the analysis of voting records. The most bipartisan Republican in the House was Salida Rep. Jim Wilson, who voted in favor of nearly 72% of the bills that passed.

Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic legislative leaders made significant policy shifts in the 120-day lawmaking term, and emphasized their efforts to win GOP votes on legislation. Once he finished signing bills earlier this month, Polis celebrated the “really historic success” of the 2019 session and pointed out that “95% of bills that reached my desk were bipartisan.”

Read Full Story at ColoradoSun.com

Why I’m Voting No on Lakewood Ballot Question 200

Why I’m Voting No on Lakewood Ballot Question 200

For several years now, growth has been the number one issue I’ve heard about as I knock on doors across Lakewood. People are worried about population growth and what it means for our historically underfunded schools and transportation infrastructure. We have all seen the traffic congestion on highways like 6th Avenue and C-470 and thoroughfares like Wadsworth, Kipling, Union, Colfax, and Alameda, and we don’t want it to get worse.

Lakewood has a long tradition of developing plans in a collaborative way, moving slowly and taking community feedback every step of the way. That’s how we ended up with our Comprehensive Plan, Sustainability Plan, and several other community plans. And that’s what’s driving our current Development Dialogue, which has already led to many changes in how the city deals with development.

This week, Lakewood voters will receive mail ballots asking them whether to support Ballot Question 200. I’m voting no, and I hope you do too. Though I share many of the proponents’ concerns about growth in our city, I feel that passing Question 200 won’t stop growth – it will just increase sprawl and make Lakewood’s housing affordability and traffic problems worse.

We already have a shortage of affordable housing that can only be solved by true strategic planning. If passed, Question 200 will make it much more difficult to build new affordable housing and will drive up rents and property taxes for people who already live here.

For the teachers, police officers, firefighters, young professionals, and others who work in Lakewood but can’t afford to live here, Question 200 will mean they have to drive in from somewhere else. That means more cars driving in and out of Lakewood every day, and thus more congestion on our roads.

So if not in Lakewood, then where? I’ve had constituents suggest that growth can just happen east of Aurora, but that’s just not realistic. If people are working in Lakewood, they’re not going to want an hour commute every day. That means increasing demand for developments in unincorporated Jefferson County that would sprawl out across the undeveloped spaces that contribute to our views of the foothills.

That’s really the choice we face. If we pass Question 200, we make Lakewood less affordable and increase sprawl and congestion. If we defeat it, we can resume our thoughtful, collaborative, and strategic planning process for the future.

I believe that we all want Lakewood to be a community accessible to young families, seniors, and everyone in between. I believe we all want to protect our beautiful parks, open spaces, and views. I believe we all want safe neighborhoods and great public schools. I believe we all enjoy having a growing number of unique restaurants, breweries, stores, and other amenities right here in our own city.

And how about the revitalization that has begun on West Colfax? I have loved seeing the emergence of art galleries and the facelift on the old JCRS shopping center, but we’re still seeing too many vacant units that could be filled by a new restaurant or store. And many of northeast Lakewood’s residents have to drive a couple miles to reach the nearest grocery store, which can be a real problem if you don’t have a car.

Why is that? It’s because businesses won’t move into areas that don’t have enough residents. New multi-family housing in northeast Lakewood – one of the growth areas designated in the Comprehensive Plan – could make a big difference in continuing the West Colfax renaissance.

What if we had a new restaurant row on Colfax instead of the growing number of storage units? Or retail establishments other than dollar stores? What if we could be sure that our kids will be able to afford to raise their families here? And that our parents will be able to retire here?

If we want to be thoughtful and strategic about growth, we must push our city council to continue the Development Dialogue, taking community feedback as they plan the right ways to grow. Passing Question 200 will not make growth more strategic – it will only increase sprawl and congestion while making Lakewood a less affordable place to live. Please join me in voting no.

Learn more at OurLakewood.com.

Female representation matters. Colorado’s legislature proves that.

Female representation matters. Colorado’s legislature proves that.

By Karen Tumulty (April 12th, 2019)

The corridors of the gold-domed state capitol here are lined with busts and portraits showing what political power used to look like in Colorado. Nearly without exception, the figures depicted in that artwork are male.

But step onto the floor of the Colorado House, and you’ll see something entirely different. In the current legislative session, more than half of the state representatives — 34 out of 65 — are women. Seven of the 11 House committees are chaired by women.

Only once before and only briefly has any legislature in the country experienced a female majority in even one of its chambers. It happened in New Hampshire, where women held 13 out of 24 seats in the state Senate during the 2009-2010 session.

A decade later, there are two: Colorado and Nevada, where women not only constitute a majority in the Assembly, but also hold most of the seats in the legislature as a whole.

This is not just the aftereffect of the 2018 election, which saw record numbers of women running for office. Colorado’s groundswell for more female representation has been building for years, fueled by organizations such as the state chapter of Emerge America, which operates a sort of boot camp for women interested in running at the state and local level.Opinion | This exchange between a Democrat and a CEO should shape the 2020 campaigns

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) grills JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who made $31 million last year, on how a low-paid bank teller is supposed to pay the bills. (Danielle Kunitz, Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Kathleen Collins “KC” Becker, who got her start on the Boulder City Council, is the third woman in a row to serve as House speaker. “We very diligently recruit women, and train women to run, and hire women as campaign managers,” she said in an interview in her offices just off the chamber. “And so, all of this is intentional. It didn’t just happen that way.”

This year has also seen a record number of women in Colorado’s state Senate, 13 out of a membership of 35. Well over half the agency heads appointed by its new governor, Jared Polis (D), are female.

Read Full Story at WashingtonPost.com

Colorado opioid fight stretches from Denver to D.C.

Colorado opioid fight stretches from Denver to D.C.

By Joey Bunch (May 24th, 2019)

The campaign to curb opioid deaths stretched from Denver to Washington, D.C., this week, as Gov. Jared Polis signed new state laws and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced get-tough legislation on Capitol Hill.

At the Sobriety House treatment facility in Denver Thursday afternoon, Polis signed:

  • Senate Bill 8, to address substance use disorder treatment in the criminal justice system. The bill was sponsored by state Reps. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, with Sens. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood.
  • House Bill 1009to provide support for those  recovering from substance use disorders, providing vouchers for housing assistance to some, creating standards for recovery residences and creating the Opioid Crisis Recovery Funds Advisory Committee. The bill was sponsored by Kennedy, Singer, Priola and Pettersen.
  • Senate Bill 19-227, a sweeping piece of legislation aimed at getting drug-overdose medication into schools, expanding the state’s drug take-back program and getting automated external defibrillator devices into more buildings. The bill was sponsored by Pettersen; Kennedy; Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver; and Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver.
  • Senate Bill 228, to provide training and other measures for prescribers to address supply of opiates. The bill was sponsored by Singer; Sens. Faith Winter, D-Westminister; Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City; and Rep. Bri Buentello, D-Pueblo.
  • Senate Bill 219, to reauthorize the Colorado Licensing Of Controlled Substances Act with a new requirement to separate the administration of the act from duties relating to treatment facilities that receive public funds. Changes also call for an online central registry for licensed opioid treatment programs to submit information to the state Department of Human Services. The bill was sponsored by Pettersen and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver.

“This law is focused on people who are going through substance use recovery and are at the end of that spectrum,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Through this bill, we are trying to reintegrate these folks back into the community and break down the barriers they face, like access to housing.”

Singer stated: “The majority of people with a substance use disorder are currently in recovery today. Supporting recovery is the right thing to do, costing the state far less in the long run. This will play a huge role in ending the opioid crisis.”

On May 16 the governor signed Senate Bill 13, which makes any condition for which an opiate has been prescribed eligible for medical marijuana.

Meanwhile in Washington this week, Bennet introduced bipartisan legislation to hold opioid makers more directly accountable for the addiction crisis caused by their products.

Besides extracting more money from drug makers, the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act would hold top company officials criminally liable for violations, while toughening laws on illegal marketing and distribution.

Read Full Story at ColoradoPolitics.com

Delivering on promises

Last Friday, the 2019 Legislative Session came to a close with a list of accomplishments that the Denver Post said would ensure the session’s legacy as “one of the most transformative in decades.”

It’s amazing how quickly 120 days go by. As soon as we learned the results of the 2018 election, we began crafting an agenda based on the concerns we heard and the promises we made while on the campaign trail. Then there was the drafting and stakeholding and revising and moving bills through committee meetings and floor debates. And then it was over!

Here’s what I heard on the trail: Lower the cost of health care. Invest in education, transportation, and affordable housing. Accelerate the transition to clean energy. Make our schools safer. Expand mental health access. Stand up for the rights of every Coloradan – voting rights, reproductive rights, rights to self expression, and more. Protect the clean air, clean water, and beautiful open spaces that make Colorado such a special place to live.

And those are the things we put most of our energy into over the last 120 days. Check out this recap of the session to learn more.

I am so proud of the work we did this session, and now I’m going to relax a little and start getting caught up on yard work before starting to make plans for the 2020 session.

Thanks again for placing your trust in me.

P.S.  Before too long, I have to start fundraising again for my 2020 reelection campaign. If you want to get a head start, you can donate here!

Colorado Democrats deliver on major changes to health care, education and the environment in dramatic session

Colorado Democrats deliver on major changes to health care, education and the environment in dramatic session

By Nic Garcia (May 3, 2019)

Democratic lawmakers ended their work reshaping Colorado on Friday, delivering on most of their campaign promises before the giant rubber band ball fell to mark the end of the session.

Sweeping changes on education, health care and the environment, coupled with a host of social policy changes such as a ban on gay conversion therapy and new gun control legislation, ensure the 2019 legislative session will be remembered as one of the most transformative in decades.

The General Assembly adjourned Friday night after one of the most conflict-filled legislative sessions in recent memory. The 120 days were punctuated with late nightslong-winded debate and lawsuits.

Nevertheless, Democrats, who had complete control of the legislative agenda for the first time in four years, and Gov. Jared Polis were able to pass legislation they believe will drive down the cost of health carepay for full-day kindergarten and overhaul regulations for the oil and gas industry.

“This is what we ran on,” said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat and freshman lawmaker. “This is the transformative policy we fought for.”

Read Full Story at DenverPost.com