Eric Galatas, Public News Service
Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said Colorado’s decision to expand Medicaid to working families has been a wise investment.
“What we’ve seen is a dramatic reduction in the uninsured rate, especially in rural areas,” he said. “Among low-income individuals, we’ve seen that uninsured rate drop from around 42 percent to around 13 percent.”
Critics of expansion in Colorado were concerned that the state could be on the hook for Medicaid costs if the Affordable Care Act imploded. Fox argued that the state won’t be on the hook, unless proposals to repeal or modify the ACA by cutting Medicaid succeed in Congress. He pointed to Colorado Health Foundation research that showed that expansion also created 31,000 jobs and contributed almost $4 billion to the state’s economy in 2015 and 2016.
Study co-author Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, said providing working adults access to the preventive care that comes with having health insurance is a smart investment of taxpayer dollars because people are less likely to use emergency rooms as their primary-care provider. She said she hopes the research will help inform public policy debate in states that are still considering Medicaid expansion.
“I think this kind of data is really important in breaking down some of the stereotypes about Medicaid and helping to really educate the public and key stakeholders about the value of Medicaid for rural communities,” she said.
Researchers found that states with the biggest urban-rural coverage gaps where Medicaid expansion would be disproportionately helpful include Florida, Missouri and Utah as well as Virginia, which is set to implement Medicaid expansion in the near future.
The report is online at georgetown.edu.