Colo. Medicaid fee would cover thousands of uninsured

The Colorado Medical Society and Colorado Hospital Assn. support the hospital fee.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Feb. 13, 2009

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A hospital fee proposed in January by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter would both increase Medicaid pay for hospitals and cover at least 100,000 uninsured people in the state by drawing down additional federal dollars.

The fee, if adopted by the Legislature, would raise about $600 million in matching funds from the federal government by charging the hospitals a Medicaid fee.

The combined funding of about $1.2 billion from the fee and the matching funds would have two main purposes. The state would increase Medicaid eligibility to cover between 100,000 and 200,000 of the more than 750,000 uninsured Colorado residents. The state also would give some of the money back to hospitals by boosting their Medicaid rates. Hospitals in the state now receive only 60% to 70% of the costs of caring for Medicaid patients, said Steven Summer, president and CEO of the Colorado Hospital Assn.

The idea arose out of discussions between Ritter and the hospital association last year. "We're very excited about it," Summer said. "We think this will go a long way to making health care more affordable."

The fee would be based on the number of hospital admissions or patient days, Summer said. About two dozen states have enacted such Medicaid hospital fees, he said.

Ben Vernon, MD, president of the Colorado Medical Society, praised Ritter for seeking to expand coverage during difficult economic times. "We also applaud the Colorado Hospital Assn. for bringing our hospitals to a leadership consensus supporting the proposal," Dr. Vernon said.

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