OPINION: Republican Health Bill Would Harm Rural Hospitals, Rural Residents

By Katie Reinisch

The House Republican health bill would be particularly harmful to Colorado’s rural communities, according to a new report released this week by the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. With debate now underway in the Senate, Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet can prevent the bill’s harmful cuts and other changes from ultimately becoming law.

“Colorado’s rural communities already face a lot of challenges, and policymakers in Washington shouldn’t make life harder for the people who live there,” said Adam Fox of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “That means our Senators should reject any bill that takes coverage away from people, ends the Medicaid expansion, caps or cuts the program, makes insurance coverage unaffordable, or takes away protections from people with health conditions.”

The House bill would effectively end the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion, under which 87,000 rural Coloradans have gained coverage. Roughly 21 percent of Coloradans who have gained coverage under the expansion live in rural communities. The Medicaid expansion has also expanded access to substance use disorder treatment at a time when many Colorado rural communities have been ravaged by the opioid crisis.

The bill also would dramatically cut and radically restructure the entire Medicaid program through a per capita cap or block grant, putting coverage for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children at risk across the state. In combination with ending expansion, the bill’s per capita cap would shift $14 billion in costs to Colorado by 2030. Medicaid plays a particularly important role in Colorado’s rural communities, and these cuts would threaten access to care for rural Coloradans, including by harming Colorado’s rural hospitals.

In addition, the bill would replace the ACA’s premium tax credit and cost-sharing protections with an inadequate tax credit that would make coverage unaffordable for many rural Coloradans, who already face much higher premiums.

The House bill also removes key protections that the ACA put in place nationwide to let people with pre-existing conditions get affordable coverage that provides the health services they need. These protections are especially critical to people in rural communities, who struggle with access to medical providers and are also subject to the whims of one or two insurers.

“Rural Coloradans have greatly benefited from both Medicaid expansion and the tax credits for private insurance under the Affordable Care Act,” said Fox. “We can’t afford to reverse that progress or rural communities will suffer.”

To learn more, please visit this website.

Colorado Consumer Health Initiative represents 45+ Colorado organizations and individual members representing more than 500,000 Colorado consumers, advocating for affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Coloradans.

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