Medicaid no longer for the “truly needy” and should be cut back, says State Sen. Laura Woods

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve been pointing out how Republicans are falsely blaming Colorado budget problems on healthcare costs for the elderly, disabled, and other poor people.

What’s worse, after scapegoating Medicaid spending on healthcare for the poor, Republicans haven’t said how they’d cut it. Or do something else to ease the budget pressure. And reporters are letting them slide.

But one state Republican recently said she’s ready to cut Medicaid. That’s State Sen. Laura Woods of Westminster.

During a radio interview in January, Woods said Medicaid used to be “for the truly needy,” but it’s not anymore. So she wants families to be poorer to qualify for Medicaid. Currently, a family of four qualifies if it earns less than around $34,000 per year–or 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Woods agreed with KNUS 710-AM radio hosts, who suggested reducing the earnings threshold for qualifying for Medicaid.

Host Chuck Bonniwell: Well, you can change the 137 percent back to 100 percent [of the federal poverty level], I suppose.

Co-Host Julie Hayden: Right. I mean, it can’t stay the way it is, right?

WOODS: Right.

Woods told Bonniwell that “this rolling back [the] 137 percent is exactly the kind of compromise and agreement that we would push to the government, and say, ‘You know what? You want compromise, let’s talk.'”

But Woods said a healthcare cut must be done with “a lot of forethought” because “you’re sort of taking away their birthday. You’re taking away Santa Claus.”

It’s a “very difficult thing to do,” said Woods. It’s unclear whether Woods, who doesn’t return my calls, was thinking it would be tough politically to cut Medicaid or humanity-wise. The Christmas line, popular among conservatives discussing government excess, usually signals their belief that the poor are exploiting safety-net programs.

The reference to Christmas and birthdays makes it sound as if Woods thinks when poor people save money on heathcare, they turn around and spend it on nonessentials. GOP Sen. Greg Brophy, who alleged that Medicaid recipients spend their money on air conditioning, cigarettes, and Lotto, made the same allegation, which is not supportable, as far as I can tell, not to mention gross. (Or does everything come back to the War on Christmas?)

In any case, Woods incorrectly stated on air that the imperative to chop Medicaid is clear, since it is “this driver of our state budget pushing our budget over a cliff, and it’s simply not sustainable.”

During her radio interview, Woods mistakenly said a family of four “making between $70,000 and $90,000 a year qualify for Medicaid.” As you can see here, she is wrong. She may have been thinking of the threshold for a family of four to receive health-insurance tax credits under Obamacare. (Plus, Medicaid expansion under Obamacare has been paid by the feds, and many of the people covered by Obamacare in Colorado are adults without children.)

So next time Republicans are bashing Medicaid, but they aren’t saying what part of Medicaid they want to cut, reporters can turn to Woods. Hopefully, she’ll have her facts that allegedly support her opinion straightened out by then.

Weekend Wakeup with Chuck & Julie, Laura Woods, January 16, 2016

WOODS: Medicaid started out where a family of four making $20,000 a year — there’s no way they could afford healthcare. And that’s what Medicaid was for. It was for the truly needy. But when we’ve raised the poverty level so that 137 percent of the federal poverty level, I think now families of four that make somewhere between $70,000 and $90,000 a year qualify for Medicaid.

HAYDEN: What?!


WOODS: So you look around and you say, — exactly your question: “Why is anybody uninsured under Obamacare? And yet we’ve got this this driver of our state budget pushing our budget over a cliff, and it’s simply not sustainable.

HAYDEN: No. That’s what it seems to me. And it’s not – I mean, there’s really not much you guys can do about – I mean,

BONNIWELL: Well, you can change the 137% back to 100%, I suppose.

HAYDEN: Right. I mean, it can’t stay the way it is, right?

WOODS: Right.

HAYDEN: You know, because I think what we saw– and maybe I’m wrong, but this whole – Connect for Colorado, when that major insurer just went, like, bankrupt and dropped all of those people, from what I gather only a fraction of those people actually signed up the new health care because it’s such a disaster. It’s it’s so expensive. So, am I right, then? Then all of those people – they’re going to go back in to the Medicaid, right?

WOODS: Yes. And –

HAYDEN: S0, it’s going to get even worse.

WOODS: It is going to get even worse, and this rolling back 137% is exactly the kind of compromise and agreement that we would push to the government, and say, “You know what? You want compromise, let’s talk about –.” But you know, you’re sort of taking away their birthday. You’re taking away Santa Claus. I mean, I don’t know, this a very difficult thing to do, and it has to be done with a lot of forethought and –

HAYDEN: But, I would say, that you want to be careful because you’re right – you don’t want to hurt families. If a family is making $90,000 a year, there’s a good chance that they probably have some other way to get insurance rather than free from the rest of us.

WOODS: You know, I agree with that. And I think that even if it’s not $90,000. You know, $50,000 a year, you can afford something on –.

BONNIWELL: Well Obamacare gives you subsidies.

HAYDEN: Right! Exactly! I mean, you have the whole–.

WOODS: At that level, right. Obamacare would give you subsidies.

HAYDEN: And you can’t be – so, then the other thing is when the governor and all that group that’s going– that’s pushed by the Denver Post – going around trying to convince people to get rid of TABOR, which isn’t going very well, I don’t think.

BONNIWELL: I haven’t heard much from them. I want to ask Laura Woods about that. I mean, you know, we heard Dan Ritchie, who is, you know The Denver Post’s favorite Republican because he is not really a Republican and therefore you can – he can front whatever left wing agenda they’ve got going, around on a listening tour, and they picled that out from my guess, probably […]–what’s her name? The famous listening tour lady. But once you go, you know, you already know what you want, and you go on a listening tour and, “Hey! They want exactly what we wanted!” But what has happened to those guys?

WOODS: Well, I actually don’t know what has happened to those guys, but I do think it has morphed into ideas like let’s rob the hospital provider fee –


WOODS: –to further fund our programs because there aren’t general fund dollars to do that.


WOODS: I think, you know, TABOR is the one piece of legislation that Colorado can lean on and depend on and stand behind as a bulwark to prevent us from becoming what California has become.


WOODS: And the conservatives in our state get that. And you know, I battle this every at every town hall I go to, every meet-and-that greet I go to where I’ve got one of my counterparts from the other side of the aisle on the stage with me and we’re back and forth over, you know, I’m standing to defend Tabor – they’re just saying we have just got to get rid of Tabor. So, it comes up. We had Andy Kerr, the senator from Littleton –or Lakewood–try to sue the state over TABOR to say is unconstitutional. That lawsuit was thrown out. So, –.

HAYDEN: […] Chuck and I talk all the time about ways to generate more revenue, but in the meantime, we’re stuck with the budget that we have. And–.

WOODS: Well, that’s what businesses and families are faced with right now.

HAYDEN: Exactly! And the government should do the same thing.

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