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President Trump's Medicaid work requirement: How will it impact Colorado?

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-11 22:11:45-05

DENVER — For the first time, the Trump Administration said Thursday that it would allow states to require "able-bodied" adults on Medicaid to work, and while Colorado did not apply for the program, many are worried it could eventually open the door.

"I was in the final stages of getting my Ph.D. when I got in the accident," said Reyna Ulibarri, a teacher and artist who received a traumatic brain injury from a hit-and-run accident on I-70 two years ago. "I just had a horrible headache, seeing flashing lights and things like that. I just kept thinking it would go away, and it didn't go away."

The injury left her unable to work, and while she applies for disability, she is reliant on Medicaid for treatment and believes the proposed work requirements would directly affect her.

"You need to be healthy in order to be able to work, and so it sort of putting a work requirement before providing somebody healthcare doesn't make a whole lot of sense," said Adam Fox, with the non-partisan Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. 

About 75 percent of people on Medicaid in Colorado do work, and the remaining people are mostly disabled or caregivers for children or relatives who would have to jump through new hoops with a work requirement to get the care they need.

"It is a complicated conversation to have. It is not as though there are millions of people sitting around doing nothing and simply collecting benefits," said Lt. Governor Donna Lynne, a former healthcare executive. They may have part-time jobs. They may have low-wage jobs They may have jobs where their employer doesn’t offer health insurance."

Lynne said Colorado has no plans for a work requirement, which would require new legislation and years of implementation, as well as potentially be a burden for employers.

"We’re happy to watch and see what happens in some of these other states," said Lynne. "It’s a sound bite on some level, versus what the actual implementation might mean, and so we’ll watch and see if there is anything to be gained from those other states."

"I am so determined to recover," said Ulibarri, who said getting back to work is her ultimate goal. But the one thing she needs first is to get better.

"If I can keep getting medical care, I am sure I can go back to being a productive member of society," she said.