The Colorado Health Institute, the state’s non-partisan non-ideological non-profit source for health care information, is reporting that state and federal laws passed in the last two years have expanded Medicaid eligibility by nearly 200,000 uninsured adults in the state. According to CHI, roughly 17 percent of Coloradans or 834,000 people had no health insurance in 2009. Medicaid provides publicly financed health insurance to low-income children, adults and individuals with disabilities. The new laws push up the income level for those eligible for Medicaid to the poverty level and just above the poverty level. The poverty level translates to an income of roughly $11,000 per year for a single person and $22,000 per year for a family of four.
In Colorado, the Medicaid eligibility expansion comes about as a result of the Colorado Healthcare Affordability Act (HB 1293) passed in 2009 and the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR3590) passed in March 2010.
The government’s health reform laws have been the subjects of heated partisan debate and the target of dis-information campaigns. Colorado Republican candidates are running hard against the new health legislation, saying it will expand government control and limit free market choice, even as vital programs like the expansion of Medicaid are beginning to address major frustrations and anxieties that have plagued citizens in their everyday lives for years.
Federal health care legislation or “Obamacare,” for example, has been a major topic in the close race for Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District, where GOP state Rep. Cory Gardner is running against Democratic Congresswoman Betsy Markey. Tea party groups are well-organized and influential in the district and rallies have featured anti-health reform speakers and literature created by national anti-health reform lobbyists. Gardner has strongly opposed this year’s federal health reform legislation. Markey ultimately voted in favor of the legislation after expressing concerns about its potential to expand the federal budget deficit in its early iterations.
In the Fourth District, the new Medicaid expansion makes insurance available for 25,936 struggling Coloradans. That’s roughly a quarter of the population of Fort Collins, the largest city in the district. In Gardner’s home county, Yuma, 412 uninsured hard-pressed residents are now eligible for Medicaid coverage.
In the Fourth District, where roughly 250,000 people will cast ballots in November, 26,000 newly eligible recipients of Medicaid coverage is a significant voting bloc.