Bill shifts health care costs to low-income children
The General Assembly is considering a bill that will impose a new monthly fee on some families with children in the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), an insurance program for children in low-income families. It is part of a package of bills to balance the state's budget and is likely to be heard by the House of Representatives tomorrow. There is a chance to stop this bill if your state representative hears from you in the next 24 hours.
Under Senate Bill 213, a new monthly fee will be imposed in place of the annual fee for families with incomes greater than 205 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (a family of four making an annual income of $44,700 to $56,000). The fee will be $20 per month for the first child and $10 per month for each additional child, up to a maximum of $50 per month per family. For families with two kids enrolled in CHP+, this fee will increase annual costs tenfold, from $35 to $360 per year.
Currently, families in the CHP+ program pay an annual fee of $25 if they have one child enrolled or $35 if they have more than one child enrolled. This fee is waived for families under 150% of the Federal Poverty Level (a family of four with an income of $33,525 or less) and pregnant women.
Fees of the sort contained in SB 213 will undoubtedly cause some families to leave the CHP+ program and expand the ranks of Colorado's uninsured children. In fact, the fiscal note on the bill assumes a 20 percent reduction in children enrolled in this program. The fees will create additional administrative costs and drive many Colorado children back into emergency room care. Those higher uncompensated-care costs will inevitably be passed on to Coloradans who are insured.
This bill will create more bureaucracy and inefficiency, reduce enrollment and leave children from some low-income families uninsured. The budget savings in this bill will in essence be paid for by shifting costs to low-income families and to those who are insured.
However, the budget savings are limited. Even in fiscal year 2012-2013, when the bill takes full effect, General Fund savings resulting from this fee are projected to total $1.5 million, or about 0.02 percent (two one-hundredths of one percent) of Colorado's total General Fund budget. Further, data released today by the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing but not yet verified by the Legislative Council staff shows SB 213 will cost not save the state money.
In the final analysis, this bill creates little fiscal benefit, harms the families we should be helping and is simply bad policy.
Take action now by contacting your state representative and urging them to vote NO on SB 213. A list of state representatives and their email addresses can be found here.