Doc and Patient Exam

Behind the Numbers: Walsenburg

Medicaid Expansion Drives Real Jobs in Real Colorado Communities

Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center is one of the largest employers in southern Colorado, a key economic driver in Huerfano and surrounding counties. Medicaid expansion has further anchored the health center at the heart of the local economy, responsible for most of the 16 new full-time positions added since 2014. A new clinic added in the tiny town of La Veta is a prime example, requiring three full-time jobs as desk staff and medical assistants. Spanish Peaks is also adding full-time physician staff and mid-level providers to handle increased Medicaid patient volume. Meanwhile, better access to Medicaid has meant a “bottoming out” of the bureaucratic and low-reimbursing Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP) at Spanish Peaks. “It’s so much better for us, we lose much less money on Medicaid than on CICP,” said Spanish Peaks President and CEO Todd Oberheu. More economic activity in Walsenburg could result from an effort to adapt to new Medicaid patient habits, Oberhue said. Spanish Peaks has found some newly insured patients use the hospital emergency department (ED) for minor complaints, not knowing where else to go. A building across from the ED may be renovated into an urgent care and primary care clinic space. They have also been able to switch one staff member from billing for CICP patients full-time to more productive functions in the multi-building facility.