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Local clinics weigh benefits of proposed Medicaid expansion

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jan 04 2013 07:15:49 PM CST

Gov. Hickenlooper proposes adding 160,000 low-income residents to Medicaid program.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado -

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he can find the money necessary to expand Medicaid, as part of President Obama's federal health care law.  But at least one local clinic has concerns about the plan.

Hickenlooper wants to add 160,000 low-income people to the state's Medicaid program, people who either have no insurance or are underinsured.  He said the estimated $128 million cost could be obtained by unspecified budget cuts and savings. To qualify, recipients would have to earn less than $15,000 a year.

Two clinics specializing in providing low-income health care shared their opinions about the plan.

Peggy Herbertson of the SET Family Medical Clinic in Colorado Springs said the plan sounds good, but she has some concerns about it.

"The misconception seems to be that everyone will be covered," she said.  "That's not the case.  We can't see all the people that need to be seen, as it is.  And as a non-profit, people may think they don't need to donate as much.  There's also a risk that employers may opt out of providing Medicaid to their employees.  That could increase the number of patients coming in."

Brady Fitzwater of Peak Vista Community Health said despite some unanswered questions about the plan, it presents an opportunity to change health care for the better.

"To have that conversation coming from both sides of the aisle -- not just the providers, but also payer sources -- I just think it's a real positive for the state of Colorado," he said.

Fitzwater and Herbertson said  their goals will continue to be helping low-income patients to reduce health care costs by keeping them out of more expensive hospital emergency rooms.

The state legislature would have to approve the governor's plan.

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