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Study: Medicaid Expansion Offers Financial Benefits for Colorado

INFOGRAPHIC: Projected economic benefits of Medicaid expansion in Colorado, courtesy Colorado Health Foundation.
INFOGRAPHIC: Projected economic benefits of Medicaid expansion in Colorado, courtesy Colorado Health Foundation.
February 14, 2013

DENVER - The potential economic impacts of Medicaid expansion in Colorado have been analyzed in a new report, and it found big benefits for the Centennial State. The Colorado Health Foundation study compared leaving Medicaid as it is with expanding the low-income health insurance program to people making up to $15,000 a year for an individual under the Affordable Care Act.

Phyllis Resnick, lead economist with Charles Brown Consulting, ran the analysis. She said the study found that with expansion, the state's economy would increase by nearly three-quarters of a percentage point by 2026. That translates into nearly $4.4 billion dollars in additional revenue and more than 22,000 jobs, she said.

"If you take the savings that will be created and the additional revenue that will be created by the economy," she said, "we could expand Medicaid fully and essentially protect the General Fund from adverse impacts."

Medicaid expansion would initially be covered by federal funds, and critics have said the state could not afford the expansion when federal funding runs out. However, Resnick said, many of those covered are already getting state assistance with no federal compensation.

Shepherd Nevel, vice president of Policy and Evaluation with the Colorado Health Foundation, said they hope the study will open up a discussion about Medicaid and its potential effects on Colorado's General Fund.

"The conclusions from the study indicate rather persuasively that Medicaid expansion will contribute to not only a healthier population but also to a stronger economy."

The report took a conservative approach, Resnick said. They only looked at jobs and economic benefits directly tied to increased access to health care and ignored other economic benefits found with a healthier population, she explained.

"We didn't increase the value of people having better health or being more productive in the economy," she said. "We didn't try to quantify some of those things that are a little bit more difficult to quantify. We simply looked at what the impact of this spending would be on the state's economy."

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced last month a plan to expand the state's Medicaid rolls. Meanwhile, at least two bills in the legislature are seeking to preserve the state's General Fund for education, should Medicaid expansion be implemented in Colorado.

The full study, "Medicaid Expansion: Examining the Impact on Colorado's Economy," is available at www.coloradohealth.org.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO