Newly Elected Congress Could Push Reluctant States To Expand Medicaid

Now that the 116th Congress has been elected and 80 new members are headed to Washington, new legislative bodies in states across the country could help governors move forward with the some of the health care decisions they’ve been putting off.

In Colorado, for example, the new Democrat-controlled House hopes to pressure Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) to officially accept Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid program, which could benefit an additional 200,000 Colorado residents. Some governors, including Hickenlooper, have been dragging their feet on deciding whether to participate in the expansion — even though expanding Medicaid would help extend coverage to millions of additional low-income Americans who currently can’t afford health insurance. The governor has yet to take a position on the issue, but the new legislature wants to change that:

Tuesday’s election results ensure that implementation of Obamacare will proceed on a fast track in Colorado and Democratic lawmakers want to move ahead with Medicaid expansion that could bring health coverage to nearly a quarter million low-income Coloradans.

“We would like to push to get health care to as many people as possible because that’s going to reduce the costs for everyone,” said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who is expected to take the reins of the Colorado House in January after Democrats recaptured control of it on Tuesday. […]

“With the feds picking up 100 percent in the beginning…I think there’s a great opportunity for innovative solutions to make sure we can fund the health care expansion,” Ferrandino said. “I feel pretty confident we’ll be able to do it.”

If governors like Hickenlooper fail to expand Medicaid, some studies warn that they will compromise the work of safety-net hospitals — which tend to serve the most vulnerable populations of Americans, like the poor and the underinsured — by costing them billions of dollars of funding. The Colorado Hospital Association has already come out in favor of the expansion in the state.

Nevertheless, GOP governors in states with some of the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation are refusing to participate in the expansion, denying millions of low-income Americans access to the critical health coverage they need. If the new Colorado congress members have anything to say about it, though, their own state won’t follow down that path.