DENVER (CBS4)– A lot more Coloradans could become eligible for public health care assistance under a new plan. Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to expand Medicaid coverage for thousands of adults and children.
In Colorado, the number of people on Medicaid has grown by 57 percent over the past four years. Under the expansion of benefits announced by Hickenlooper on Thursday, an additional 160,000 would be eligible.
That includes Linda Storey. She was 23 years old and an aspiring rock star when her symptoms first began.
“I started tripping and couldn’t figure out what it was,” said Storey.
Doctors diagnosed her with Multiple Sclerosis. The disease would eventually leave the mother of two disabled and struggling with health care costs topping $5,000 a month.
She said Medicaid was her only hope.
“People on Medicaid aren’t just wanting handouts they’re really hurting,” said Storey.
In Colorado more people will have access to the government program after Hickenlooper announced the state will participate in a Medicaid expansion program under the new health care law.
“At the same time you are expanding coverage you can also improve outcomes. And if you really focus on it and push you can also control costs,” said Hickenlooper.
Those costs will top $800 million in Colorado over the next 10 years, according to one study.
State budget analysts dispute that claim, putting the cost at $128 million. They also said they’ve identified $280 million in Medicaid savings that will cover the additional expense.
Hickenlooper identified savings to the program as eliminating duplicate services, reforming payment systems to reward value and not volume and upgrading computer systems to help identify fraud.
Storey is part of an advisory committee that is helping identify additional savings.
More than half those on Medicaid in Colorado are children.
Those who qualify must meet 100 percent of the federal poverty level, about $11,000 a year for an individual and $23,000 for a family of four.
Under the expansion, individuals could quality making $15,000 a year and families $30,000.