3:13 pm - Tuesday December 18, 6429

Colorado Grapples with “New” Medicaid

What some are calling the “new” Medicaid doesn’t kick in until 2014 – but beginning next month, Colorado lawmakers will try to figure out how the state will handle the benefit expansion.

It’s part of the Affordable Care Act, which will allow certain low-income people without insurance to get health care via Medicaid. State Sen.-elect John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, says there is support for the expansion in Colorado – as long as it comes with other benefits.

“I think it’s a win-win for Colorado. And I think if we do it properly and we continue to make the changes that we’re doing to drive down the per capita costs, eventually, our goal is to bend that cost curve and to make sure that people are healthier.”

In order to get full federal funding, Colorado would need to open Medicaid to people who make up to 133 percent of the poverty line – about $31,000 for a family of four. That could add about 225,000 people to state Medicaid rolls. Critics say Medicaid as it stands is too expensive, and worry that states will end up footing an even larger medical bill.

Polly Anderson, chief policy officer for the Colorado Community Health Network, says most children who qualify under the expansion already are covered by Medicaid but getting access to insurance for the parents is the key because it helps get families in the habit of health care.

“Somebody at this lower socio-economic status wouldn’t have that habit because health care would be something to be avoided at all costs. It’s expensive. It could land you in bankruptcy. It could land you in debt. It’s something to only be used in cases of extreme emergency.”

Kefalas says the goal is better health care for all Coloradans.

“Making sure that the outcomes are better so that people are healthier, so that we can catch things up front on the primary care side of things, on the preventative side of things, which will ultimately reduce costs on the back end side of things.”

The federal government would pay all of the new cost until 2017. Currently, most Medicaid costs are split about 50-50 between the federal and state governments.

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