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ACA Replacement Plan Puts Colorado's Health Centers at Risk

Proposed cuts to Medicaid could impact nearly 130,000 seniors and people with disabilities in Colorado who rely on the program. (Pixabay)
Proposed cuts to Medicaid could impact nearly 130,000 seniors and people with disabilities in Colorado who rely on the program. (Pixabay)
March 9, 2017

DENVER -- As the GOP-led Congress struggles to make good on promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, leaders of Colorado's community health centers say new bills introduced this week could be devastating - especially for centers in rural parts of the state already operating on slim margins.

Scott Bookman, chief executive with the Uncompahgre Medical Center on the Western Slope, said rolling back Medicaid expansion would take away 30 percent of revenues they rely on to provide care to patients across the region.

"This system out here works because we're able to provide care for everyone,” Bookman said. "And if the Medicaid expansion goes away, we see our margins disappear and we're not able to keep the doors open. Everybody loses."

The plan released by House Republicans on Monday included cuts to Medicaid and would phase out the Medicaid expansion, which extended coverage to more than 11 million low-income Americans. President Trump called the new plan "wonderful" and said future measures would make good on his promise of insurance for all Americans.

Jennifer Morse, vice president for development with the Salud Family Health Centers - which serve nine communities in northeastern Colorado - said its uninsured rate dropped from 53 percent to 29 percent because of Medicaid expansion. She said more than half a million children, 18,000 pregnant women and some 130,000 seniors and people with disabilities in Colorado rely on the program.

“Three-quarters of the Medicaid enrollees are actually working individuals,” Morse said. "They either have an employer who does not provide health insurance, or even with subsidies they still are not able to purchase insurance through the exchange."

Bookman said extending Medicaid coverage to more Coloradans also helped bring down costs because people are able to get preventive care at clinics instead of waiting until they're sick and turning up at the emergency room.

"When people have access to quality primary care through Medicaid expansion, then they get healthy and they stay healthy,” he said. "And their cost to see the doctor is significantly less than a time-consuming and expensive trip to the ER."

On Wednesday, the American Medical Association urged lawmakers to withdraw proposals to overhaul Medicaid, saying the move could lead to fewer people with coverage and higher health care costs.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO