Medicaid demand spikes in Summit County
SUMMIT DAILY NEWS
In Summit County, just as in the rest of the country, the demand for Medicaid is higher than ever. In 2010 there were 800 program enrollees in Summit County, compared to 550 in 2007, according to Summit County’s Public Health Department Director Deb Crook.
Crook said more people applied – and were accepted to – the program as a result of the down economy. She said when the application number increases, depending on the statewide need, there is usually a delay in getting people approved.
“I think the growth in the number of people that are enrolling made our unit really busy,” she said.
Colorado Medicaid is a public health insurance for low-income people financed through state and federal funding.
In the fall of 2009, Colorado sought to increase its funding through the federal government – which matches state need – by implementing legislation that increases hospital’s provider fees. A hospital pays a provider fee to the state for every patient it sees (not just those on Medicaid); almost like a tax. Hospitals then receive more money to cover Medicaid through federal funding. A bill prohibits hospitals from passing the fees onto patients.
Effective this past spring, states were able to receive federal matching funds to cover more low-income families and individuals through the government’s Affordable Care Act. The provision aims to increase the number of people on Medicaid.
Steven Summer, president of the Colorado Hospital Association, said Colorado’s need for Medicaid has increased “dramatically” in the past three years. He said that three years ago, there were about 300,000 people enrolled in Colorado’s program, compared to about 600,000 now.
The Colorado Hospital Association works for all Coloradans to have access to “high quality, affordable health care provided through an appropriately financed, outstanding health care delivery system.”
Summer called the increased provider fee “a step in the right direction,” and said it has been “enormously successful” in expanding access to Medicaid. He said hospitals are losing less money than they did before.
Summer said he is “adamantly opposed” to any repeals proposed to the provider-fee law.
Medicaid eligibility is expected to expand from 100 percent to 133 percent through health care reform.
Crook said Medicaid struggles when the economy is poor, and Colorado already has trouble with its state budget. But, she said that increased provider fees seem to be helping to pay for the Medicaid expansion.
“When we have uninsured people, Medicaid is helpful to people struggling the most,” Crook said.
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