As seen in the Denver Post last week, a new Colorado Health Foundation report says state expansion of the Medicaid program in Colorado has created 31,074 new jobs and added $3.8 billion in economic activity.

The report, titled, “Assessing the Economic and Budgetary Impact of Medicaid Expansion in Colorado: FY 2015-16 through FY 2034-35,” says annual household earnings in Colorado has risen by $643 due to state Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. By fiscal year (FY) 2034-2035, Colorado is projected to add a total of 43,018 new jobs, increase economic activity by $8.5 billion and raise average annual household earnings by $1,033.

The report concludes that “in the two years since implementation, expansion in the state has had a significant positive effect on the economy at no expense to the general fund” in the state budget.

The study was commissioned by the health foundation and prepared by the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University. The Denver Post article quotes the president of the foundation, Karen McNeil-Miller, as saying: “The impact of Medicaid expansion in the state is broad-reaching and demonstrates how health is more than just what happens at the doctor’s office. In addition to providing health insurance to nearly 400,000 Coloradans, expanding Medicaid has proven to be a fiscally sound decision.”

Click here to read the Denver Post article.

Click here to read the Colorado Health Foundation report.

We Texans can only wish that our legislature and governor had been as concerned for our citizens and our state’s bottom line.

In June of 2012, the Supreme Court ruled affirmatively on the constitutionality of key parts of the Affordable Care Act. The Court, however, did decide that expanding Medicaid to include individuals and families with incomes of up to 138 percent or less, fell to the states to decide. Shortly after the announcement of the Supreme Court’s judgment, Governor Rick Perry made a costly decision to refuse to allow Texas to accept Medicaid expansion. This move denied health coverage to more than 133,000 low-income Texans. Working families throughout the state have been paying for that decision ever since. And the Texas legislature has failed to provide an alternative.

I am a pediatrician in Brownsville, Texas, in Cameron County, one of the poorest counties in the United States. Over 36 percent of our population is uninsured. Expanding Medicaid for Cameron County would provide 64,677 of our residents with health insurance. The county would receive almost $200 million a year from the federal government for this care, creating nearly 5,000 new jobs and adding over $5 million dollars in increased tax revenue (this from the Center for Public Policy Priorities and work done by conservative economist Ray Perryman).

Click here to read the Center for Public Policy Priorities report. 

This is far more economic benefit than any city or regional economic development council could hope to generate in one year. But at issue is not just dollars, this is about lives.

As a pediatrician, my responsibilities are to provide health care to my patients. But I must also care about the family members of these children, for if the family is not well, the child cannot thrive. A child’s health and future is tied to family health equity.

Many adult Texans with severe, chronic illnesses, which would qualify for Medicaid coverage in other states, do not qualify for health care coverage in Texas, until they have reached the end stages of their disease. Too late to save them, or to prevent an early death. A professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston estimates that 9,000 Texans die each year that the state refuses to expand Medicaid. This is more than annual motor vehicle accidents, homicides and suicides combined. As a physician, we would call that a public health crisis. It is unacceptable, unconscionable…and it is entirely preventable. We need legislators, who will stand with all Texans and address this public health crisis.

As Ann Cass, of the RGV Equal Voice Network’s Health working group, notes: “The hundreds of thousands of people in Hidalgo County alone that would benefit from expanded Medicaid should be worth our legislature following the example of Colorado. The federal government provides an affordable response to the need. Even if the legislators in Texas don’t want to expand Medicaid, do something! People should not be dying of diseases here in the RGV that are curable just because they don’t have insurance. They should not be having to have BBQs to finance their medical care. Give health care for all people a chance. Health care should be a right, not a privilege.”