Medicaid numbers rising in Routt County

Eligibility changes make it easier for some families to receive public health care

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By the numbers

Routt County Medicaid statistics

Month, Year / Number of recipients / Medicaid expenditures*

January 2009 / 716 / $409,827

February ’09 / 731 / $725,583

March ’09 / 736 / $691,742

April ’09 / 770 / $783,996

May ’09 / 796 / $785,419

June ’09 / 836 / $873,576

July ’09 / 856 / $728,753

August ’09 / 867 / $701,636

September ’09 / 876 / $835,503

October ’09 / 882 / N/A

November ’09 / 885 / $575,214

December ’09 / 905 / $943,410

January 2010 / 953 / $644,162

February ’10 / 965 / $797,791

March ’10 / 994 / $793,145

April ’10 / 997 / $622,566

May ’10 / 1,017 / $704,525

June ’10 / 1,012 / $602,470

Colorado Medicaid is public health insurance for families, children, pregnant women, people who are blind or people with disabilities and the elderly.

*Medicaid funds are directly billed to and paid through the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

Source: Routt County Department of Human Services

Colorado Medicaid is public health insurance for families, children, pregnant women, people who are blind or people with disabilities and the elderly.

*Medicaid funds are directly billed to and paid through the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

Source: Routt County

Department of Human Services

— More people in Routt Coun­ty are receiving public health care benefits this year as the cost of private health insurance premiums increases and unemployment numbers remain high. According to the county’s Department of Human Services, the number of Medicaid recipients in the county has increased 41 percent during the past 18 months.

“Our offices have recent­­ly gotten very busy again,” said Diane Miller, direc­tor of clinical and quality services at the Northwest Colora­do Visiting Nurse Asso­ciation. “We have a lot of people calling looking for help because they lost their jobs or they cannot afford to keep their private health insurance.”

Miller said changes to the eligibility requirements to receive Medicaid at the state level will allow even more Routt County families to obtain public health insurance in the next four years. The Colorado Healthcare Af­­for­dability Act, which was passed in 2009, expanded eligibility for Medicaid to include parents of children eligible for medical assistance who make up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Medicaid previously provided assistance for parents who make up to 60 percent of the poverty level.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of outreach in the next couple of months to find these families who may not know they are now eligible,” Miller said.

The VNA said there are hundreds of people in Routt County who are eligible for, but not enrolled in, Medicaid and Colorado’s Child Health Plan Plus, a public health insurance plan for children and pregnant women who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The Colorado Health Institute projects that by 2014, there could be 1,899 people eligible for Medicaid in Routt County, but not enrolled in the program.

“It’s needless for a child to go without health insurance because so many people are eligible for the CHP Plus program or Medicaid,” Miller said.

Esther Gallegos, the VNA’s eligibility technician, said she talks with an average of 10 families per week in Steamboat Springs to assess their need for public health insurance. She said more people are seeking help because they cannot afford to keep all of their family members on their private insurance plans.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of people that have never had to use public health insurance before,” Gallegos said. “A lot of people think you can’t be making any money to qualify, but there are various levels of income that qualify a lot of families for Medicaid.”

An average of $718,783 has been spent per month on all Medicaid expenditures in the county during the past 18 months. Dr. Brian Harrington, a family physician at Yampa Valley Medical Associates, said that despite the new changes that are making more people eligible for Medicaid, he has not seen an increase in patients using the program at his office in recent months.

“It will be interesting to see what happens when the new subsidized programs roll out,” he said. “I imagine we might see younger people in their early 20s, a group that is largely without health care in the county, take advantage of the new opportunity.”

The next Med­­i­caid eligibility change in Colora­do is expected in winter 2012, when childless adults, a category of people previously not covered by Medicaid, will be eligible for the program in the county.

— To reach Scott Franz, call 871-4210 or e-mail scottfranz@steamboatpilot.com

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