Lawmakers in Colorado voted last week to reject a Republican proposal that education funding be a higher priority for the state budget than Medicaid expansion. In my opinion, the state’s Medicaid expansion plan is a good idea, and one that’s worth funding. The alternative is that we continue to have a significant segment of the population without health insurance. That seems wrong from a moral standpoint, but it’s also a financial burden on the hospitals that treat large numbers of uninsureds in Colorado.
Although I believe that education funding is just as important as healthcare funding, the attempt to make it a higher priority seems like posturing and an effort to pick a cause that nearly everyone finds agreeable. Education funding is an easy cause to get behind – except that Republican lawmakers aren’t always so quick to support it. Then again, neither are the voters in Colorado.
Medicaid expansion and the subsidies that will help pay for health insurance for families earning up to 400% of FPL starting next year are both an integral part of getting many of the hundreds of thousands of currently uninsured Coloradans covered by health insurance. Both of these measures require funding via tax dollars, but without them we would likely continue to have a large uninsured population. The Medicaid expansion work that Colorado has done over the last few years had earned the state several large federal grants, but the focus thus far has primarily been on expanding access to coverage for low income children. The state’s rules didn’t allow Medicaid coverage for most childless adults, even those with very low incomes. A change in those guidelines to allow more people to be covered by health insurance – and thus have realistic access to healthcare – is a step in the right direction.