Report: Ryan budget would cost Colorado billions in healthcare cuts

A report issued Tuesday by healthcare advocacy group Families USA illustrates how the Ryan budget, passed recently in the U.S. House on a mostly partisan vote, could cost Colorado up to $36 billion over the next decade.

According to the report, Colorado would bleed billions in Medicaid, Medicare and other federal healthcare spending over the next ten years if the budget were adopted.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said in a conference call with reporters that Ryan’s budget specifies how much will be cut from Medicaid and other healthcare programs, but does not break those numbers down by state, which Families USA did on its own.

Ryan proposes cutting federal spending on Medicaid and Medicare by effectively shifting costs to citizens receiving the benefits and to state treasuries.

“This would decimate coverage for seniors, children and people with disabilities,” Pollack told reporters. “This would result in many more people joining the ranks of the uninsured.”

The House budget would also repeal the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform bill passed in 2010 that Families USA said extended coverage to about 465,000 Coloradans.

Bob Semro, health care policy analyst at the Bell Policy Center in Denver, said he was careful to confirm the accuracy of the numbers.

“You have to understand… that Families USA has a point of view and is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act. They have their position on healthcare just as Paul Ryan and the Republican Congress has their view.”

Semro added that the numbers are shocking but that the real problem with the budget is that it cuts federal spending but does nothing to trim the larger problem of constantly escalating healthcare costs.

“It does nothing to address those costs, which are the root of the problem, and by overturning the [Affordable Care Act], the budget will serve to further drive healthcare costs up.”

If the feds were to shift healthcare costs for the poor and elderly to the states, he said, most states would not be able to make up very much of the difference, which will then shift costs on to consumers, health insurance companies and healthcare providers. It would also force people with health insurance to continue subsidizing care for those without it.

The bottom line problem with healthcare, he said, is not who pays for it, but the cost itself, which he said currently accounts for about 18 percent of gross domestic product and is growing.

One thing mostly missing from the debate, he said, is the fact that Americans are getting older and many are not financially prepared to pay the healthcare costs that come with aging.

Quoting the Colorado state demographer, he said that in Colorado the population of people 65 and older will more than double between 2011 and 2030.

“There will be 1.2 million seniors in Colorado by 2030, many of them paying no taxes. Surveys have shown that most of them are not financially well prepared for retirement.”

He said for many seniors, if the ACA is repealed, Medicare and Medicaid will be their only options for paying for health care. “If the feds cut those budgets and the states can’t pay, then what do you have?”

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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