Medicaid enrollment off slightly after sharp run-up

Enrollment in Medicaid and Colorado’s Childrens Health Program Plus has tapered down after a sharp run-up as the Affordable Care Act was implemented.

Enrollment in these two key public health supports was off about 10% from its highest point in 2017. This is likely the combined result of a slight increase in residents receiving insurance through employers alongside the impacts of national rhetoric and policy proposals discouraging participation, according to county health officials.

“We’re seeing our very low uninsured rate level off,” said Mackenzie Sehlke, public affairs specialist for Boulder County Health and Human Services. “We think we are reaching a saturation point in terms of people who are eligible."

Although informational advertising about Medicaid expansion has declined at the federal level, Sehlke said the county, in partnership with the state, has made special efforts to communicate with the public about the benefits for which they are eligible.

“It has been a priority to do our best to make sure people know about it,” Sehlke said, including those who worry that the immigration status of some family members may make others in the family ineligible.

Only U.S. citizens are eligible to receive Medicaid benefits, meaning that there may be confusion in so-called mixed status families. For example, in some families, the children who were born in the United States are eligible, but a parent or other family member may not be. In addition, she said, some people who are here legally on a work visa in hopes of becoming permanent citizens worry that accessing health care for their children might jeopardize their status.

Sehlke added that it’s important for everyone who is eligible to receive care.

“Families who have young children (should be able) to access well baby appointments and primary care opportunities for their children,” she said. “Research shows (health care) builds healthy families in the long term."

Despite these exceptions, Sehlke said the county has made great progress implementing the Affordable Care Act.

"Tens of thousands more can have access to care,” she said.“We’re proud to have such a low uninsurance rate in Boulder County.”

by Cindy Sutter