Up to 7,000 more may become eligible for Medicaid in Mesa County

On May 13, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a law to expand Medicaid eligibility for Coloradans as authorized under the Affordable Care Act.

As many as 160,000 Coloradans who could not afford health insurance this year may become eligible for coverage through Medicaid starting in January, the Colorado Department of Health Care Financing and Policy said.

Locally, that means up to 7,000 Mesa County residents could sign onto Medicaid starting next year, Scott Aker, deputy director for Mesa County Department of Human Services, said.

Aker, who attended a forum about the Affordable Care Act presented by Club 20 on Saturday, said the actual number of county residents who could become Medicaid-eligible because of the act might be as low as 4,500, though estimates vary.

One question yet to be answered is whether the human services department, which has “core responsibility to administer Medicaid applications and the determination of eligibility,” will have adequate resources to handle the influx of new clients, Aker said.

“To this point, there are not specific, new identified resources for us to manage this. I know that there are conversations going on at the state and the federal level ... in terms of unlocking a little bit more administrative resources, because it takes time and money to do it,” he said.

The human services department is currently training additional temporary staff on the “data system and lingo” they need to deal with the anticipated increase in eligibility, he said.

“We really don’t believe that all (7,000) will come at one time. There are lots of different estimates about the rate, the number and the pace at which people will come,” Aker said.

Starting Oct. 1, Coloradans will be able to apply for Medicaid in person, over the telephone or online via Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s new, Internet-based health insurance marketplace.

Beginning Jan. 1, individuals earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level in 2013 — about $15,000 per year for an individual and $30,000 per year for a family of four — may be eligible for Medicaid. Coverage will not begin until Jan 1, Connect for Health Colorado said.


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