John Hickenlooper pushed to increase Colorado’s Medicaid coverage. Extravagant promises appeared.

Proponents promised greater Medicaid coverage would improve recipients’ health. It would even out health outcomes across society, some said.

In fourteen counties more than one-fourth of all county residents have now signed up for Medicaid. Suppose Medicaid worked well. These folks would be healthier than the rest of the state, right?

So, did having lots of people on Medicaid make people healthier?


Nope. They’re almost 20% less healthy in total. Here’s how we know.

Colorado has a measure of healthiness called the “illness burden.” All Coloradans average an illness burden rating of 1. Some people are sicker (higher numbers). Some are healthier (lower numbers). Every Colorado county has an illness burden number. [Colorado All Payer Claims Database for 2012]

These counties’ residents have an average illness burden of 1.19. Only one county (Saguache) has a rating on the healthy side (less than 1.0). That’s with 31% of residents in these counties on Medicaid.

Dive down a bit. Only three counties’ Medicaid patients are healthier than the statewide Medicaid average. The more people on Medicaid, the worse the system seems to work for them. Democrats want to cram even more people into a creaking system. Swell.

Closing the gap? No joy there either. These counties’ privately insured are 3.4% less healthy than the statewide private coverage average. Those having Medicaid are 7.6% less healthy.

Medicaid works exactly opposite to Hickenlooper’s promises.

This is a big deal. Colorado will spend two billion extra dollars (over FY 2012) offering Medicaid to more people. For this pile of cash we ought to get more, shouldn’t we?

Sure, there may be other factors causing these counties to look sickly. But Colorado’s Medicaid failure echoes a formal study of Medicaid’s impact in Oregon.

Oregon had a lottery for Medicaid. Some Oregonians “won” Medicaid. Some missed out in the lottery. Winners’ Medicaid coverage “generated no significant improvement in measured physical health outcomes.”

Two billion bucks in Colorado for this? Add on the latest proposed $13 million fee you pay on unsubsidized private insurance. 

Set aside purported financial mumbo jumbo claims about Medicaid expansion. They rely on fairy gold deficit federal spending. Purported benefits vanish in the cold light of reality. Deficits must eventually be paid. [Gory details here.]


High Medicaid counties: Alamosa, Baca, Bent, Conejos, Costilla, Huerfano, Las Animas, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Prowers, Pueblo, Rio Grande, Saguache. Assumption: Current high Medicaid coverage replicates 2012 coverage.