What Health Care Reform Means For Denver’s Biggest Safety Net Hospital

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Photo: Denver Health Clinic (AP Photo)
Lab technician Zach Meili works in Denver Health Medical Center's primary care clinic located in a low-income neighborhood in southwest Denver.

As Republicans in Washington hammer away on healthcare reform, people across Colorado are anxious to see what they come up with. That includes the new CEO of Denver Health, Robin Wittenstein, who cautions against reversing the expansion of Medicaid.

About 400,000 Coloradans got health insurance through the program after the Affordable Care Act passed, and now about half of Denver Health's patients are on Medicaid. Many of those patients didn't have insurance before the ACA, and Denver Health treated them without payment. As a result, the Medicaid expansion has helped Denver Health open a new primary care clinic, which serves the hospital's goals of increasing preventative care and keeping people out of the emergency room.


The American Health Care Act, which passed the U.S. House last month, would phase out the Medicaid expansion, cutting about $800 billion from Medicaid over 10 years. The bill is expected to undergo significant changes in the U.S. Senate, though many senators in the majority party support the idea of restructuring Medicaid, in part because of a belief that some Medicaid patients can pay for private insurance, and that reducing federal funding for the program will make it more efficient, saving tax money in the long run.

Wittenstein spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about the prospects for healthcare reform, and action in the Colorado state legislature this year.