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House Vote: Health Care for Seniors, Kids, Rural Coloradans at Risk?

Changes in how Medicaid is funded under the new version of the American Health Care Act could result in loss of services for people with disabilities. (Getty Images)
Changes in how Medicaid is funded under the new version of the American Health Care Act could result in loss of services for people with disabilities. (Getty Images)
May 5, 2017

DENVER – The passage of a revised American Health Care Act by the U.S. House moves Medicaid one step closer to the chopping block. The plan would cut over $800 billion from the program by 2026, and opponents of that change say that puts people with disabilities and children at greatest risk.

Marjorie Plane, age 71, lives in Fort Morgan with her daughter Hope, who has cerebral palsy. She says without Medicaid, Hope would lose in-home help from local caregivers, and her independence.

"Right now, she has kind of like a normal life," she says. "She volunteers a lot, and if she was in a nursing home she wouldn't be able to do the things that she does now."

The House plan would hand a capped amount of Medicaid dollars over to states, even if costs continue to rise, and eliminate the current federal guarantee of payment for all legitimate expenses. Backers of the change claim it will give states more flexibility to fund care.

But, critics say if states can't fill in funding gaps, expected to be $14 billion in Colorado, many will lose access to care.

The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative estimates 600,000 Coloradans will lose their health insurance if the bill becomes law, and some rural hospitals and clinics that rely on Medicaid might have to close their doors.

Christopher Smith of Sterling works part-time while pursuing a bachelor's degree, and has a preexisting condition. He says without Medicaid coverage, he couldn't afford medicines that literally keep him alive.

"Having the coverage since I've had it, it's been one less thing I've had to deal with, in terms of stress and finances," he says. "With everything that I have going on, one more thing on the rock pile of stress is not something that I need right now."

The Congressional Budget Office didn't have time to review the current bill before yesterday's vote - but under the previous GOP health plan, it said 24 million Americans would lose coverage.

Colorado's delegation voted along party lines - with the exception of Republican Mike Coffman, who broke ranks. The measure could be heard by the U.S. Senate later this month.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO