Senator Says Medicaid Expansion Will Impact State’s Poverty Rate
State Senator John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins), a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 200 which would expand income eligibility in the Medicaid Program to 133 per cent of the federal poverty line. A longtime champion of lower-income Coloradans, Senator Kefalas was one of five senators who voted for the bill when it passed out of Committee last week. In an interview with Catherine Strode, Coordinator of the Health Care Advocacy Program, Senator Kefalas said expansion of the Medicaid program will have a positive ‘intergenerational effect’ on poverty in Colorado.
What kind of an impact will Medicaid expansion have in our state?
“I think it’s going to be a significant impact. Right now we know that perhaps 16 to 18 per cent of the population is uninsured. The biggest reason why people are uninsured is cost. For a lot of working families the cost of buying private health insurance is out of reach. Senate Bill 200 expands Medicaid to adults without children and parents of kids up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four that’s about 31 or 32 thousand dollars. The direct impact that it will have is that people who don’t have access to health care coverage will get access. When we had testimony, the first person who spoke was a mother from the western slope. She was basically in tears because they know they want to provide that security for their children, but it’s just unaffordable. This will be able to touch more of those families. Ultimately, I think it’s a wise investment in Colorado, in families, in children, in adults. If they have health care coverage then they can focus on the front end of taking care of themselves therefore - primary care – therefore - prevention. A lot of times people who don’t have coverage delay having checkups and down the road find out they have some medical condition. Then, ultimately, we all pay for that. The Medicaid expansion is a wise thing. It’s going to take a couple of years, but ultimately, it’s going to make a big dent on the 800,000 Coloradan adults and children who don’t have access to health care coverage. It’s good for the state; it’s good for everyone. If children are healthier, if families are healthier, I think communities are healthier, local economies are healthier. Kids do better in school when they’re well. They can emphasize proper nutrition; it’s a way of dealing with issues like obesity. I think it’s the proper thing for Colorado to do.”
How will Medicaid expansion impact poverty in Colorado?
“It will impact issues related to child poverty, family poverty. There are a lot of working families out there but they don’t make enough earnings to be able to afford health insurance or many of the other things that many of us take for granted. Having this coverage will at least set aside that financial need until that family can have more financial security, earn greater income. I think this will have an intergenerational effect because once parents have access to health care, in my opinion that has a ripple effect on that family. Adults being proper role models for children, children will take better care of themselves. That increases their chances for academic success in school and we all know that when children graduate from high school and go on to post secondary, their earnings also will improve.”
How do you think Medicaid expansion will affect business in Colorado?
“It is good for business, on a number of fronts. One of the comments was made, that there is logic in doing this because it will create greater transparency in terms of cost shifting. Right now, people say, “Why are we doing this? If someone is sick they can go to the hospital, they can go to the emergency room and they can’t be turned away.” Of course, that is the case but that is very illogical because ultimately somebody has to pay for that and hospitals have a responsibility to accept those people. But that’s an example of undercompensated care. If those people cannot pay for those medical bills, that gets shifted onto insurance premiums, private insurance. So there’s greater transparency in that issue and I think that’s really important. I also think that businesses are looking at it from a work force perspective. We know that in the small group market (less than 50 employees) if you’re an employer, and you want to supply coverage for your employees, it’s a great thing to do. But it’s a hard thing to do because it’s so terribly expensive. Covering your employees is one is one of the biggest cost drivers for businesses. If we can help put greater transparency into the system, if we can make sure people are healthier, therefore they’re performing better on their jobs, they’re not taking as many sick days. That’s where there are direct benefits to businesses. Ultimately, we are trying to help the work force; we are trying to help businesses address a big cost driver.”
*Courtesy of AdvocacyDenver.org