Policy Deep Dive: Aging Coloradans & The Caring Workforce

Aging Coloradans face enormous financial challenges in finding the care they need in a state that fails to adequately support the caring workforce and imposes strict asset limits for services. The Bell Policy Center took an in-depth look at the situation in our 2021 State of Aging report. Today, in collaboration with some of our valued partners, we’re adding to that body of work and elaborating on two distinct topics: The workforce problems in the home and community-based services sector, and Medicaid asset limits that require aging Coloradans to live in poverty in order to get assistance.

As one of the fastest aging states in the country, Colorado lacks adequate systems to support our growing aging population. Many Coloradans over the age of 65 (nearly 70 percent) rely on long-term care services to meet their daily needs. Paying out-of-pocket for these essential health services can be exorbitantly expensive and inaccessible to those who need them.

Medicaid is meant to fill that gap, providing a social safety net for those who struggle to afford care. However, Colorado has very restrictive requirements on who is able to access these services. For example, the state imposes a strict limit on the allowable income and assets a person can have in order to qualify for care. This limit, referred to as an medicaid asset limit, has an impoverishing impact on the aging demographic as those seeking care are required to remain at an extremely low income level  in order to qualify for the care they need.

This has been demonstrated through multiple studies:

  • Medicaid asset limits have been found to lower household wealth by 16 percent. 
  • Asset limits, in general, have been shown to lower the likelihood an individual has a bank account. As the Bell has documented, the lack of a bank account enhances financial insecurity
  • Notably, as programs with asset limits disproportionately serve individuals from communities of color, these limits have been found to increase racial disparities.

In one of the briefs above, in partnership with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), we explore the challenges with Colorado’s current Medicaid asset limit specifically as it relates to older Coloradans, and a range of potential policy alternatives. In the other, we take a deep dive into the home and community-based workforce problems.