Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) told 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman last month that Medicaid spending is siphoning money from “every other program,” including schools and roads.
Cadman: “[Democrats] have ignored the needs and demands of about five million people to specifically support one program, and it cannibalizes every other program. They’ve ignored the Constitution and put K-12 money into this program. I mean, they’ve ignored the roads, and put money into this program.
The missing follow-up question in all these interviews is, does he propose to cut Medicaid? It sounds a lot like he is, but he doesn’t say so directly.
Cadman: “What I am suggesting is, when you have something that is supposed to be the safety net, you should protect it for those who need it the most,” Cadman told Rittiman, when asked if he wanted to eliminate Medicaid. “And if you grow it beyond that, and you are creating a program that is, one, cannibalizing the other programs and, two, has no funding source, you are creating a conflict.”
So, clearly, reporters should ask Cadman, whose spokesman did not provide a comment to me, if he thinks Medicaid, has grown beyond the “safety net” it’s “supposed to be.”
If he thinks so, he could, for example, advocate changing the formula for qualifying for the Medicaid. Currently, to be eligible for Colorado’s Medicaid program, families of four must make less than about $32,000 a year and individuals less than $16,000. Over a million people are enrolled state-wide. Keep in mind that about 75 percent of people who receive Medicaid are working already.
But before anyone starts throwing poor people off Medicaid, as Cadman seems to be proposing, or charging them more, he should be clear that the driving force behind the growing state costs of Medicaid aren’t coming from adding new people to the program.
About 300,000 people were added to Colorado’s Medicaid program under Obamacare, but 100 percent of their coverage was picked up by the federal government (which gradually decreases to 90 percent in 2022). With exceptions for children, the cost of non-Obamacare Medicaid is split evenly between the state and the feds.
But even with the feds covering most (but not all) new enrollees, the cost of Medicaid to the state is increasing, by $136 million in this year’s budget proposal and $155 million last year.
Why? It’s largely due to the growing numbers of elderly and disabled people enrolled in Medicaid, who are expensive to take care of, according to Rich Jones Director of Policy and Research at the Bell Policy Center. The two cost drivers feed each other because, as you’d expect, the more elderly you have the more disabled people you eventually get.
Jones points to state data showing that about 82 percent of the proposed $102.8 million increase in state funding for Medicaid premiums (a subset of this year’s $136 million increase) is going to people with disabilities and the elderly.
In the current year, Jones points out, 12 percent of the people enrolled in Colorado’s Medicaid program were elderly and disabled, but they accounted for 42 percent of the costs of the program. Last year, it was 11 percent of enrollees and 40 percent of the costs. Covering the elderly and disabled under Medicaid requires seven times more funding than covering a child and three to four times more than an adult.
“I think this shows that our aging population and the cost of long-term care is a key factor driving the Medicaid budget,” said Jones. “A lot of these folks are middle class seniors who have spent down their assets and must rely on Medicaid to cover their long-term care costs.”
So an efficient way for Cadman to cut Medicaid might be to somehow cut down on the specific people, the elderly and disabled, who are the root cause of the program’s increasing costs.
I’m joking of course. Cadman wouldn’t want to do this.
But, seriously, what would he cut?
Here’s more of Cadman’s interview on 9News’ Balance of Power Jan. 17, 2016.
Cadman: We have the money. We have, again, a record budget. The reality is, where is it being spent? And what has never been discussed, what doesn’t get brought up, what you don’t hear in the State of the State speech [by Gov. John Hickenlooper] is, by the way, we added nearly $300 million to a program in Health and Human Services last year. The year before that, we added $250 million to that program. The year before that, we added another $250 million. And this goes back to when Gov. Ritter was here. Gov. Hickenlooper has picked up the mantel. They have ignored the needs and demands of about five million people to specifically support one program, and it cannibalizes every other program. They’ve ignored the constitution and put K-12 money into this program. I mean, they’ve ignored the roads, and put money into this program. We’ve come to the table year after year after year, and I’ve been here a while, and I still have the notes of over ten years of saying, ‘Here’s how we can start managing some of the growth in this program while we’re helping to prioritize funds for other programs. It’s completely fallen on deaf ears. We’re always at the table.
Rittiman: Are you talking about Medicaid?
Cadman: We’re talking about Medicaid and the expansion of Medicaid, and all the subsequent programs in it. And it’s a big complicated issue, but it is demanding literally every dollar that could have been spend on virtually everything else. And when you share that with people, and the history, and you show them how the money’s been spent, everyone’s always in shock, because it’s always been used and it’s never being talked about.
Rittiman: Are you suggesting getting rid of Medicaid?
Cadman: Nope. I’m not suggesting getting rid of Medicaid. But what I am suggesting is, when you have something that is supposed to be the safety net, you should protect it for those who need it the most. And if you grow it beyond that, and you are creating a program that is, one, cannibalizing the other programs and, two, has no funding source, you are creating a conflict. And as soon as you have that, you can promote a crisis. That’s exactly what’s been happening.
Rittiman: How do you change that?..
Cadman: The math of growing this program with no borders has never worked, but the chose to grow it anyway. So maybe that’s a great question to go back to the speaker [of the state House, Democrat Dickey Lee Hullinghorst] and say, ‘Why have you supported this knowing it’s doing this to the budget, since you’ve been here, I believe this is her eighth year.’