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Shocker: Coloradans want to maintain Medicaid coverage for kids

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 28, 2017 - Updated: June 28, 2017

iStock image / zimmytws

We’ll just cut to the chase on the results of a new poll commissioned by Children’s Hospital Colorado — and, please, be sure you are seated. From the hospital’s press release highlighting the findings:

A recent poll conducted by a leading Republican pollster finds a “universal belief” among Colorado voters across the political spectrum that regardless of what happens with the proposed healthcare bill, longstanding Medicaid benefits for children should be protected.

The most significant of the survey’s specific findings:

85% agree that “regardless of whether Obamacare [the Affordable Care Act (ACA)] is ultimately repealed or changed, Congress should maintain the longstanding benefits that Medicaid has guaranteed children since 1965”…

Wow, keep health coverage for the poorest kids as it has been — since 1965? Who could argue with that? Presumably — though it’s not part of the survey — a similar percentage wants to maintain crossing guards in school zones. And wants to see all stray puppies and kittens adopted by loving homes.

OK, so why bother to poll on the obvious? Well, it has to do with politics — more specifically, with the ongoing debate in the U.S. Senate over its pending version of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. And more specifically still — like just about everything else in the news these days, it seems — it has to do with Colorado’s Republican junior U.S. Sen Cory Gardner. The press release explains:

“Senator Gardner has been a staunch advocate in this debate for kids,” said Jena Hausmann, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Colorado. “We’ve asked Senator Gardner to step up and fight to protect Medicaid as a safety net for children in important ways. He has, and we are counting on him.”

Children’s Colorado publicly has expressed strong opposition to the House-passed version of the bill, and also opposes the Senate’s discussion draft. The hospital is urging Colorado’s U.S. Senators to make tangible improvements to the bill in order to reduce its negative impact on children. Senator Cory Gardner has started to get traction in the Senate with provisions that would limit the Medicaid cuts to children.

Sounds like the good folks at Children’s are employing a bit of positive reinforcement on the senator, kind of wishfully implying he is right where the hospital is on Medicaid. It’s a safe bet even he doesn’t know yet where his own threshold is on reconfiguring Medicaid.

Alongside that, it also sounds like the hospital is engaging in a bit of spin. Notice how that key polling question blurs the line between “the longstanding benefits that Medicaid has guaranteed children since 1965” and what’s really on the table in the pending GOP redo on Obamacare: the Affordable Care Act’s significant expansion of Medicaid. That’s the focus of the current, intense debate in Washington and across the country; no one is talking about eliminating the children’s benefit itself — just about where to set the bar for income eligibility. It’s a bar Obamacare set a lot lower.

Whether Medicaid’s expansion was warranted or not is of course a philosophical question; whether Congress should change that standard again is a matter of politics. And the Children’s survey findings don’t seem to offer much substantive guidance in that regard.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.