On Thursday, the Governor announced plans to cover an additional 160,000 Coloradans by allowing individuals and families making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify.

That would allow an individual earning less than $14,856 to receive Medicaid. Under current rules, that person would need to make less than $11,170 to be eligible.

A family of four would qualify by earning less than $30,657 instead of $23,050.


Colorado hospitals support the Governor's decision because it would cut down on the number of uninsured people using hospital services.

Hospitals can't turn people away from the emergency room. When people can't pay, the hospital passes the cost of their treatment on to everyone else.

"Last year in Colorado that cost shift, as we call it, was about $1.5 billion," Colorado Hospital Association President Steven Summer said. "There is a significant hidden fee or tax on every patient that has health insurance that pays."

A previous expansion of Medicaid taken on by the state of Colorado cut down that problem by $200 million over three years by covering 60,000 new patients, Summer said.


Giving Medicaid to all these people would cost $128 million over the next decade, according to the Governor's office. The Hickenlooper administration disputes a Kaiser Family Foundation study that put the figure at more than more than $850 million, saying it ignored many Colorado policies that mitigate costs.

Regardless, the federal government pays the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years under the term of the law known as "Obamacare."

After that, the state begins to pitch in, eventually picking up ten percent of the cost.

The Governor told reporters Thursday he thinks that enough money can be saved by making Medicaid more efficient in Colorado that "not one dollar of general fund money" would be needed to cover these new people on Medicaid.

In fact, the Governor's office projects a savings of $180 million over 10 years.

Republicans are skeptical of the Governor's estimation.

Sen. Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) called the Governor's plan "short on details."

Republicans are also not certain that Congress will actually fund the federal portion of the expansion costs.

"If the program starts up and then loses federal funding, there's only one person to go to on this and it's going to be Gov. Hickenlooper," Lambert said.

Hickenlooper says he's confident that the federal government will keep its end of the bargain.