By Matt Valeta
Young adults: What defines us? Taking pictures of our food and fixing computer problems for our parents?
Unfortunately lacking health insurance may be the most common characteristic of our generation because young adults comprise one of the largest uninsured groups in the United States. Entry-level and part-time jobs make health insurance a luxury. College students who are required to find coverage can find the cost to be a huge burden. I doubt that I am the only one who is guilty of using duct tape instead of visiting a doctor.
Thanks to Obamacare, Colorado is creating the new Medicaid program to help young adults and other Coloradans find health care. Individuals earning $15,000 or less (and families of four making up to $30,000), will be insured through the new Medicaid program in 2014. The expansion is expected to reduce the number of uninsured Coloradans by 160,000.
This newly Medicaid-insured group deserves coverage. Many of them are among the working poor – those making too much to qualify for Medicaid now but unable to afford private coverage. These Coloradans are contributing to Colorado’s economy.
According to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, many employees in the entertainment, professional services, retail, construction and manufacturing industries will gain Medicaid coverage. Additionally, college students who will be the job creators of tomorrow could gain coverage. The new Medicaid program invests in Coloradans who are invested in Colorado.
Besides being the right thing to do, the new Medicaid program is the smart thing to do. Colorado already faces financial consequences because of uncompensated care for the uninsured. According to Families USA, the cost of treating uninsured patients adds as much $576 a year in higher premiums and nearly $1 billion in extra health care spending in Colorado, not to mention unnecessary pain and suffering. Colorado’s indigent care program is an inadequate band-aid – medical services vary in availability, coverage is limited and finding specialty care can be nearly impossible.
And it will pay immediate benefits to Colorado. According to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., the new Medicaid program is projected to bring $12.28 billion in Colorado’s economy and create 12,000 jobs at little to no cost to Colorado. The federal government will cover all new Medicaid costs for three years and will never cover less than 90 percent of the costs. Gov. Hickenlooper has also identified $280 million in Medicaid savings that can offset the $128 million price tag over the next 10 years.
Colorado’s governor and general assembly are showing that they see the opportunity to make an investment in Colorado’s future leaders. Getting the care that you need is not too much to ask for. Working together to expand Medicaid, we can make sure that Colorado moves closer to that commonsense goal.
Matt Valeta graduated from Colorado College in June 2012 and is a health policy fellow at Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a statewide coalition representing 50+ Colorado health organizations with more than 500,000 health care consumer members, advocating for affordable, accessible, high-quality health care for all Coloradans.