Congressman reassures Medicaid recipients, questions budget office | VailDaily.com

Congressman reassures Medicaid recipients, questions budget office

Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District

Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District encompasses Western Colorado and reaches into the Eastern Plains past Pueblo, including western Eagle County beginning in Eagle-Vail. It covers more square miles than Florida.

WASHINGTON — If you depend on Medicaid now, then Republican health insurance bills won't change that, said Rep. Scott Tipton.

Tipton, a Republican, represents Colorado's massive 3rd Congressional District. Constituent questions during Monday's telephone town hall ran a wide gamut, ranging from Republican plans to replace Obamacare, to accusations that the Forest Service is improperly charging loggers to use state roads, to veterans benefits, questions about an epidemic of opioid abuse and many other issues. Health insurance and Republican bills to repeal and replace Obamacare were at the top of most callers' minds.

If you qualify, you keep it

Tipton said multiple times that anyone who qualified for Medicaid in the past will get to keep it under the Republican plan.

"If you qualify, you will still receive those Medicaid dollars," Tipton said. "If you qualify for Medicaid, your Medicaid will continue."

Medicaid was designed to help America's most vulnerable, Tipton said. Their care is a point of agreement, regardless of politics, he said.

"If you are low income and you qualify for Medicaid, you will continue to qualify for Medicaid," Tipton said.

A Grand Junction woman said she is draining her retirement savings to pay for treatment and specifically asked Tipton about coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Tipton assured her that the House bill prohibits insurance companies from refusing coverage because someone is suffering from a pre-existing condition and said he expects the Senate bill to take the same approach.

"We all know someone dealing with a pre-existing condition," Tipton said. "Regardless of politics, providing for people with pre-existing conditions is something that everyone seems to agree upon."

Questioning CBO's calculations

The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that, compared to Obamacare, the Republican plan will reduce Medicaid spending by 25 percent by 2026 ($880 billion). On the other hand, the Congressional Budget Office calculates that as many as 22 million people could see their Medicaid coverage reduced or eliminated by 2026.

When the House bill passed, Tipton questioned the Congressional Budget Office's conclusions and calculations in statements on his website. He said it's difficult, if not impossible, to predict what people will do when they're no longer forced to buy an insurance product "they do not want," as they are under Obamacare.

"The (Congressional Budget Office) has a long history of making inaccurate predictions about the Affordable Care Act and has acknowledged that its 2016 baseline measurement of the number of people insured was off by at least 5 million," Tipton said. "The (Congressional Budget Office) cannot predict the decisions individuals will make when they are no longer forced by the federal government to buy an insurance product they don't want."

High Country, high cost insurance

Obamacare is also driving up health insurance costs, Tipton said.

"In 2017, under the so-called Affordable Care Act, insurance premiums in Colorado increased by 20 percent — on top of the 24 percent increase Coloradans faced in 2016," Tipton said.

Tipton said three pieces of legislation passed by the House and moved to the Senate are designed to address the high cost of health insurance premiums in Western Colorado, among the highest in the country.

"As the House has worked toward repealing and replacing the (Affordable Care Act), my focus has been on the cost of health care, because measuring success by the number of people who are insured doesn't make a whole lot of sense when most of these people can't afford to use their insurance," Tipton said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.