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Colorado Education Association vs. Health Care Choice (Amendment 63)

The authors of a recent newsletter from the Colorado Education Association say they “believe that Amendment 63 eliminates our state’s ability to enroll Medicaid and Child Health Plan-Plus participants in health insurance and will end up increasing health insurance and health care costs.”

What a whitewash. What they really mean is that Amendment 63 would eliminate the state’s ability to force people to enroll Medicaid, Child Health Plan-Plus, or any so-called “private” health plan designed by politicians. You might wonder why those eligible for such Medicaid and Child Health Plan-Plus don’t voluntarily sign up.

Maybe it’s because the programs offer lousy care, in part because the program underpays doctors.  Coincidentally, this increases insurance premiums.

Last year the Denver Post reported that “18 percent of new applicants didn’t get timely benefits” last October. Or maybe it’s the lack of access to medical care.  Earlier this year the Denver Post reported that “Temporarily short on money, Colorado has declared a fiscal emergency and delayed payments to doctors and clinics taking care of the state’s neediest patients.”

This is typical of Medicaid, which one reason Medicaid expansion increases prices of medical care and insurance. Recipients end up using emergency rooms more than the uninsured.  And the uninsured pay a higher percentage of their bills than Medicaid does for those enrolled.  In 2008 Reuters reported:

The government’s Medicaid program for the poor may put more financial burden on overcrowded hospital emergency rooms than the nation’s 47 million uninsured, according to a study published on Thursday.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco and Stanford University found that the uninsured patients paid 35 percent of their overall emergency room bills in 2004, versus 33 percent for Medicaid.

Bob Moffit and Nathan Lamborn of the Heritage Foundation write:

According to one survey, one third of physicians do not treat Medicaid patients and another third admitted that they limit their Medicaid practice. In Texas for example, 60 percent of physicians will not accept new Medicaid patients. Subsequently, Medicaid patients end up emergency rooms twice as often as the uninsured and four times as often as people with private insurance. This is alarming because covering people with insurance is supposed to keep people OUT of expensive emergency rooms, not make visits more frequent.

As for the price of health care and insurance, do the CEA authors know that Medicaid actually increases them? “Inadequate reimbursements by programs such as Medicare and Medicaid increase the annual cost of covering a family of four by $1,788,” reports Bloomberg.  (Our premiums are at most 1.7% higher because of the “cost-shift” from the uninsured who don’t pay part or all of their medical bills.)

Medicaid also increases how much you pay for prescription drugs.  Writes Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute:

Indeed, the more a state expands its Medicaid program, the more difficult it becomes for everyone to afford private insurance. Economists Mark Duggan of the University of Maryland and Fiona Scott Morton of Yale University find Medicaid’s drug-pricing controls effectively increase by 13 percent the prices that private purchasers pay for prescription drugs. If grandma’s medications cost her $1,000 per year, some $117 of that is a hidden tax attributable to Medicaid.

And don’t forget Medicaid fraud, which amounts to $562 fraud per Medicaid recipient each year. Also, Colorado Medicaid’s error rate in paying claims is much higher than private insurers.  And Child Health Plan-Plus (S-CHIP)?  Check out this Rocky Mountain News article from 2008:

The state program that delivers health care to more than 53,500 needy children and pregnant women is in administrative disarray, state auditors said Monday.

A report on the Children’s Basic Health Plan found that 10 percent of patients were classified incorrectly — either as eligible when they weren’t or as ineligible when they were entitled to services. Hundreds of people were kept on the program after their eligibility expired — for up to two years in some cases. …

Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, said she was “distressed” by the report. …

“It seems like kind of a mess,” said Primavera, who has worked in health care administration. …

The auditors found 831 women who remained in the program after their eligibility should have expired. The cost associated with them is $104,000, the auditors said.

Colorado Amendment 63 would prevent government from forcing people to participate in Medicaid, S-CHIP, and politician-approved insurance plans. That nature of such health plans are responsible for soaring health care and insurance prices: they are not insurance, but prepaid health care. Read more in my article at the Huffington Post: Colorado Amendment 63 and Its Shifty Opposition.