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To Combat Rising Health Care Costs, Should Colorado Let People Buy into Medicaid?

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
04/17/18  3:43 PM PST
Buy into Medicaid

By John Ingold for The Denver Post – “To combat rising health care costs, should Colorado let people buy into Medicaid?”

Medicaid, the nation’s joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor, is often described as providing a safety net — something to save the neediest people from disaster.

But, as health insurance costs spiral rapidly upward, Colorado lawmakers and health care advocates increasingly say that it is the entire state that is facing a crisis. So, some of them are now proposing a radical, potentially first-in-the-nation idea: Why not let anyone buy their way into Medicaid, regardless of income?

A bill introduced Friday at the state Capitol would instruct several Colorado departments to study the feasibility of that idea, as well as the possibility of creating new public-private partnerships or co-operative health insurance programs. The bill’s sponsors say these would be pro-active measures, as opposed to previous reactive solutions that have tried to smooth the zigs and zags of federal health care policy.

“This is saying, ‘How do we lead on this? How do we find a Colorado solution for our own folks?’ ” said state Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Democrat from Vail and one of the bill’s sponsors.

But the Medicaid buy-in would likely have to be approved by federal officials before it could go into effect, and that may be the smallest of its hurdles. How much would it cost to buy in? How much would the program pay doctors? And how could policymakers guarantee the entire thing would be sustainable, without further eating into the state budget?

The bill has bipartisan sponsorship — all four lawmakers coming from rural areas of the state that have been hit the hardest by high costs and a shrinking number of insurers. But it also has its skeptics, even though it is just a first step.

“Adding more people to the Medicaid rolls doesn’t address the real problem of rising health care costs,” Jesse Mallory, the Colorado director for Americans for Prosperity, wrote in an email.

Read the Full Article at The Denver Post.