Medicaid Archives - Colorado Politics

Kara MasonKara MasonJanuary 18, 20183min1500

Sometimes San Luis Valley law enforcement officers will wait to make an arrest until after the person has received medical care, according to local officials.

The reason they wait, according to the Valley Courier which reported the story last week, is because Medicaid will cover the medical costs. But once a person is arrested they lose most Medicaid benefits, and with a good number of inmates relying on Medicaid — more than 40 percent of the San Luis Valley’s population relies on the federal program — the tab is rapidly growing for local jails.

“We just really believe that that is an injustice,” Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis reportedly said during a meeting with aides from Sen. Cory Gardner’s office.

The Valley Courier continues on the situation the rural southern region of the state is facing:

“I’m aghast that we treat our mental health in jail by putting them in jail,” Rio Grande Hospital CEO Arlene Harms said. “I just think that’s awful.”

Medicaid does cover the cost if an inmate stays at a hospital for 24 hours or longer. However, that doesn’t take care of quick visits to the pharmacy, dentist, emergency or clinic, which are the majority of visits.

For example, Jackson said an inmate that Alamosa County housed out in Custer County due to lack of beds suffered from an apparent heart attack. Custer County was ill equipped to handle the situation so they flew the inmate to Pueblo. The issue turned out to be an anxiety attack and because the inmate was discharged in less than 24 hours Alamosa County was left with a $23,000 flight bill.

To make matters worse, hospitals aren’t reimbursed through the hospital provider fee when treating jail populations, according to the Valley Courier’s reporting.

The news outlet adds that one solution local governments are considering is better utilizing ankle monitoring programs, since that wouldn’t terminate medical care.

And as for help from Congress and Gardner?

The senator’s aides said they couldn’t make any promises, but the meeting was good insight into the problem several southern Colorado communities are facing.


Associated PressAssociated PressJanuary 12, 201811min211

BOISE — A giant chunk of central Idaho with a dazzling night sky has become the nation's first International Dark Sky Reserve. The International Dark-Sky Association designated the 1,400-square-mile Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve. The sparsely populated area's night skies are so pristine that interstellar dust clouds are visible in the Milky Way.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirNovember 15, 20174min5010

Each week, the Colorado Dental Association has been posting real-life testimonials on social media about the impact of a state initiative extending Medicaid dental coverage to Colorado adults. Several adults from across Colorado — Denver, the Western Slope and Eastern Plains included — are being highlighted in the series being shared on Facebook, Twitter and the Colorado Dental Association website.

Children in Medicaid-insured households long have gotten coverage for their oral health care, but adults only were brought in under the state-federal Medicaid umbrella a few years ago. A Colorado Dental Association press release this week touts the effort and gives some background:

Starting on April 1, 2014, Colorado adults enrolled in Medicaid gained access to dental coverage. Colorado expanded this benefit because of the importance of dental care and the strong evidence that good oral health is substantially linked to overall physical health. Health experts agree that neglecting oral health leads to serious conditions like strokes, heart and lung disease, pneumonia and diabetes. Good oral health conversely can prevent major health conditions and supports healthy pregnancies.

What’s more, all those maladies and more become the burden of taxpayers when the medically indigent don’t have dental coverage; they wind up in emergency rooms. And that costs all of society a lot more than if they simply had seen a dentist in time.

Hence, testimonials like this one from Zaida Garcia of Aurora:

I have a really big smile. That’s one of the reasons I know I have to take care of my teeth. I didn’t always have access to affordable dental care. That didn’t do my teeth any favors. …

… I moved to Colorado two years ago, and got dental coverage by enrolling in Medicaid. I promptly found a dentist and scheduled a teeth cleaning. I ended up needing a root canal and cap for a tooth that otherwise would have needed to be pulled. …

… The cap on my tooth is the perfect shade—not too light, not too dark. I still have a big smile, because I know that nobody can tell a thing!

The subtext of the “Dental Health Matters” campaign by the dental association is to help ensure continued state funding for the program. It’s covered by interest the state earns on unclaimed bank accounts and other unclaimed assets whose owners can’t be located.

A key premise seems to be that the additional funding for the adult dental benefit is a cost-saving investment not only in the physical health of the beneficiaries but also in the fiscal health of the state in the long run.


Tom RamstackTom RamstackOctober 12, 20176min391
WASHINGTON — Colorado U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette argued in favor of a discount drug pricing plan Wednesday while the president tries to overturn much of the previous administration’s health care program. President Trump said he would sign executive orders as soon as this week to eliminate some Affordable Care Act insurance rules. The 340B drug […]

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Ernest LuningErnest LuningSeptember 19, 20175min6590

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet roasted a last-ditch attempt by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare Tuesday as worse than the GOP's previous effort and contended the legislation could derail bipartisan work to repair the nation's health care system. “I can’t decide whether this is Groundhog Day or the definition of insanity: every attempt is worse than the last," the Colorado Democrat said in a statement.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningSeptember 19, 20175min3110

More Coloradans than ever have health insurance, according to a massive biennial survey released Tuesday, although the state continues to see lower rates of coverage outside the Denver metro area. The Colorado Health Access Survey found the number of state residents without health insurance dipped slightly to 6.5 percent from 6.7 percent in 2015 — the first year the survey reflected full implementation of the Affordable Care Act — and that consistency could be the big news in this year’s survey, its sponsors say.


Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 7, 20177min2620

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper advocated a bipartisan revision to the nation’s health care insurance program during a U.S. Senate hearing Thursday.

“Many people are angry and they have a right to be,” Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said during the hearing.

Hickenlooper discussed the plan he developed with six other Democratic and Republican governors while the time for revising the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act is running out for this year.

A Senate budget resolution Republicans have been using to authorize repeal of Obamacare expires at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, insurance companies hit with huge claims are either dramatically increasing premiums or closing down their business in some states.

Virginia and Tennessee could lose all their health insurers in little more than a year unless Congress intervenes to change the Affordable Care Act, according to statements from senators at the hearing.

Fourteen Colorado counties are served by only one health insurer after the other insurance companies dropped out, Hickenlooper said. Some families are paying as much as a quarter of their income to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement of buying insurance, known as the individual mandate.

“Our division of insurance is projecting premiums will increase by as much as 27 percent in 2018,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s a big problem.”

So far, all efforts by Republicans working alone to change the Affordable Care Act have failed, leaving a bipartisan plan like the one proposed by Hickenlooper as one of the few alternatives.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee scheduled four hearings in a week as it tries to salvage a new health insurance program.

Hickenlooper and his co-author of the governors’ plan, Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, will talk more about healthcare on Friday when they address a conference put on my the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal Center for American Progress.

Hickenlooper suggested Thursday that keeping the unpopular requirement that individuals must buy health insurance if employers don’t offer it, at least until Congress develops a better replacement.

Another provision of the plan calls on the Trump administration to fund cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers.

The plan also says Congress should fund a reinsurance program to pay for the care of the sickest patients, thereby eliminating their heavy costs from everyone else’s premiums.

“So many of these [insurance] pools tend to be dominated by the least healthy people,” Hickenlooper said.

He said he knew of a few patients whose health care costs exceeded $5 million a year.

“That raises premiums for everyone,” Hickenlooper said.

He wants Congress to give states more flexibility to craft their own solutions to health care costs, rather than forcing them to comply with a single federal standard.

“Existing regulations limit our ability to come up with creative solutions,” Hickenlooper said.

One of the most successful state programs mentioned during a Senate hearing a day earlier was Alaska’s reinsurance program.

The state invoked Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize shifting federal funding to state programs that bring down insurance premium prices. Alaska shifted insurance coverage for patients whose cases are the costliest to a separate pool the state funds separately through a reinsurance program.

Premiums for all other insured persons fell 7 percent afterward.

The bipartisan plan Hickenlooper proposes draws from the Alaska example.

Colorado’s primary innovation is its Accountable Care Cooperative, Hickenlooper said.

The cooperative gives residents an option of joining a system that emphasizes preventive health care, such as immunizations, health screenings and weight management.

“In Colorado, we’re trying to stretch federal dollars and pinch pennies,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s time for the federal government to work with us, not against us.”

Colorado Sen.Michael Bennet, a Democrat, said other industrialized countries pay half as much as the United States on health insurance but still provide their people with good care.

“We’re getting worse results,” Bennet said.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, issued a statement before the hearing Thursday night urging cooperation in Congress to resolve skyrocketing health care costs.

“Our current healthcare system will continue to fail Coloradans if we don’t do something to address the rising costs created by the Affordable Care Act,” Gardner said. “This should not be okay.”

Hickenlooper was joined at the speakers table Thursday by Republican Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Gary Herbert of Utah, along with Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana.

A group of Colorado Senate Republicans “mailed in” questions to Hickenlooper about his “nominally bipartisan” proposal.

The governor “didn’t bother to discuss his supposedly-bipartisan plan with Colorado Republicans,” Senate President Kevin Grantham said in a statement, “so we thought we’d give this a shot.”

The questions addressed the growth of Medicaid, rising premiums and a lack of details in Hickenlooper’s proposal.

“The governors’ plan offers no specific recommendation for modifying the onerous burdens in current law placed on small employer plans,” the Colorado Republicans wrote. “Does Governor Hickenlooper, as a former small business employer, have any personal thoughts or recommendations on that important issue?”

Grantham questioned labeling Hickenlooper’s plan bipartisan when only two of the nation’s 34 Republican governors signed on.

“If we’re going to come up with a Colorado solution to these issues, in a truly bipartisan way, Colorado Republicans should have a place at the table that they haven’t had so far,” Grantham wrote.