Colorado Springs' Republican Mayor John Suthers told the Colorado Springs Gazette Tuesday that turning the hospital provider fee into a TABOR-defined enterprise would be "by far the easiest, least painful solution for the taxpayers" to address Colorado's budget woes.
But in his interview with Gazette reporter Megan Schrader, Suthers repeats the misinformation that Obamacare's expansion of Colorado's Medicaid program, which provides health care to the poor, is eating up state money now.
Suthers: "A lot of the animosity surrounding this goes back to the fact that they are saying look if we didn't participate in the Medicaid expansion we wouldn't need all this money, and the provider fee was basically a means to pay for the expansion. I understand all of that, but having the provider fee in the TABOR calculation is going to create immense problems going forward. It's just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger and if you don't take it out I don't know what's going to happen."
The animosity-filled people who told Suthers that Colorado "wouldn't need all this money" if it weren't for Obamacare's Medicaid expansion are actually factually wrong.
Colorado's Medicaid expansion has so far cost Colorado nothing (Here at page 26). It's been 100 percent paid for by the federal government, which will slide down to paying 90 percent of the costs by 2020.
Next year, Colorado will contribute about $41 million toward covering Obamacare's new Medicaid enrollees. If Colorado were paying the full 10 percent now, the state would contribute $142 million. And Suthers is correct that the Hospital Provider Fee, which is used to cover various health care services for poor people who can't afford them, is earmarked to pay for this.
But $41 million is a fraction of the $768 million projected to be collected by the Hospital provider fee next year. In 2017-2018, the state contribution to covering Obamacare's Medicaid enrollees, which looks to be on the order of $75 million, is still a fraction of the HPF money collected. So the HPF appears to be a solid source of funds for covering Colorado's contibution to Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.
The people, mentioned by Suthers, who have all the animosity about the hospital provider fee should explain how they'd fund basic health care programs for elderly, disabled, and other poor people without it. And, for that matter, how they'd pay for state government with it, if it's not removed from the TABOR framework and $370 million in tax dollars is refunded to you and me.