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Colorado Workers Benefit from State's Medicaid Expansion

More than 130,000 Coloradans have benefited from the state's decision to accept Medicaid expansion work in industries critical to the state's economy, according to a new study. Credit: Sturti/iStockphoto.
More than 130,000 Coloradans have benefited from the state's decision to accept Medicaid expansion work in industries critical to the state's economy, according to a new study. Credit: Sturti/iStockphoto.
October 6, 2015

DENVER – The Affordable Care Act has had a big impact on workers who don't get health insurance through their jobs, at least in some states.

Since Colorado decided to expand Medicaid coverage last year, almost 68 percent of Coloradans benefiting from the program are workers – according to a new report from Families USA.

Dee Mahan, Medicaid program director for Families USA, says that means more than 130,000 workers in the state now have access to health coverage.

"And they're working in jobs in a variety of sectors in the Colorado economy," she says. "These are people who provide a lot of services, oftentimes dealing with the public. So you want people who are working a lot with the public like cooks, waiters, waitresses to be healthy."

In 2014, Colorado agreed to accept federal funds to help cover more low-income residents through the safety-net program. The expansion of Medicaid gives people who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level – just under $28,000-thousand dollars a year for a family of three – the option to enroll in health insurance plans they can actually afford.

Mahan says Coloradans now covered by the program work in industries that are the foundation of the state's economy. The study found 20,000 food service workers, 15,000 construction workers, 11,000 bus and truck drivers, along with thousands working in health care, administrative support, retail and other sectors all benefit from expanded coverage.

"This is really great for Colorado's economy, and for having a productive, healthy workforce," says Mahan. "They're healthier at work, they don't have to take as many sick days, which is great for employers, and it really is a hand up because it's a lot more financial stability for these people."

Colorado is one of 30 states, along with the District of Columbia, to expand Medicaid coverage. Mahan says many workers in the 20 states not participating in the program could find themselves stuck in a "coverage gap." She says they earn just enough to not qualify for subsidies in the federal marketplace, but make too much to be eligible for standard Medicaid coverage.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO