Colorado Governor Will Expand Medicaid, Saving $280 Million And Extending Health Coverage To Thousands

Gov. Jay Hickenlooper (D-CO)

Now that the presidential election is behind us and a new legislative session is about to begin, officials across the country will spend much of 2013 taking the steps to prepare to fully implement the Affordable Care Act. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) made significant progress in that area this week when he announced his state will accept Obamacare’s optional expansion of the Medicaid program, a move that will ensure that over 160,000 of his low-income residents will now be eligible for coverage.

At a press conference on Thursday, the governor announced that his plan to expand the Medicaid program will both improve coverage for low-income Coloradans as well as end up saving the state money in the long run:

“This is a step toward what we have talked about for a couple of years: How can we make sure we’re making Colorado the single healthiest state in America?” Hickenlooper said.

Through 2016, the federal government covers the entire cost of the expansion, which comes under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The governor said he anticipates that even when federal funding for the expansion is reduced, “not one dollar of general-fund money will be used to replace it.” […]

The state’s ability to embrace the health-care expansion draws on “a relentless focus on how to control costs,” Hickenlooper said. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing zeroed in on several areas of projected savings, largely by rewarding value over volume.

Efforts to avoid duplicating services, improve coordination and employ information technology to reduce fraud and improve claim tracking drive the $280 million estimate.

Expanding the eligibility levels for the Medicaid program is optional under Obamacare, and federal funding makes the expansion a good deal for states. Numerous studies have shown that if states choose to expand Medicaid for their residents, they will be able to extend coverage to over 20 million previously uninsured Americans, save millions of dollars, and create jobs.

Nevertheless, some Republican-controlled states are still digging in their heels against reform, preferring to take an ideological stand against Obamacare rather than extend health care to their low-income residents. Republican governors in nine states have already said they will refuse the expansion.