On April 7, three new technicians will start work at Garfield County Department of Human Services to help deal with the influx of Medicaid enrollments brought in by the Affordable Care Act.
The original budget called for just two more techs. The plan was to bring on additional staff as needed, but the need quickly outpaced the process.
“We were thinking it would be a slower progression and, boy, were we wrong,” Human Services Director Mary Baydarian said. “When it took effect in October and our caseload started to increase, we just couldn’t keep up.”
Funding from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing will help cover some of the additional cost.
Garfield County has seen more than a 30 percent increase in cases since the act took effect on Oct. 1, 2013. September 2013 saw 3,531 Medicaid cases, while 4,653 families were served this February.
That’s an increase of 1,122 families in five months, which is a larger increase than during the preceding four years.
Given that the baseline is the height of the recession, those figures are pretty significant.
“The numbers have been climbing pretty steadily since the recession started,” Tricia Murray, the department’s Economic Security Manager, said.
Including the new hires, the county’s Human Services Department has added 10 employees since 2009. The bulk of them are assigned to medical assistance, which represents 63 percent of Human Services cases in Garfield County. Most of the remainder goes to food assistance, which has plateaued somewhat in the last year.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), known as Obamacare, extends Medicaid eligibility to some working class, non-disabled 19- to 60-year-olds who previously weren’t covered. Additionally, Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s portal for insurance assistance, requires applicants to apply for Medicaid as part of the process of obtaining tax credits for health insurance premiums.
Colorado saw 242,951 new applications from Oct. 1, 2013, through March 15. Most of the growth is in adult Medicaid, while 18- to 25-year-olds are the largest age bracket, accounting for 23.8 percent of new applicants.
March 31 was the deadline to start an application for assistance through the PPACA. Those who started an application before that will have until April 15 to complete it.
The flow of new cases should ease somewhat after that.
“I would expect it to drop off now,” Murray said, “But we’ve been wrong before.”
“We were thinking it would be a slower progression and, boy, were we wrong. When it took effect in October and our caseload started to increase, we just couldn’t keep up.”
Garfield County human services director