As the long bill passed the House on 3rd and final reading Thursday, a JBC-initiated bill that may cause 2,000 low-income children to drop out of a Colorado health care assistance program also won the Legislature’s approval.
“This bill is unnecessary, it is unreasonable and it is immoral,” Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, said. “We should not be trying to balance the budget this year, or for future years, on the backs of the poor children of Colorado.”
The bill, SB 213, sponsored by Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, and Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, if signed into law by the governor, will require charging families who make between 205 and 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) up to $50 dollars a month to have their children enrolled in the Childrens’ Basic Health Plan (CHP).
Federal poverty level is set at $10,830 for an individual and $22,050 for a family of four.
Currently, families are asked to pay an annual fee of $25 for one child and $35 for multiple children. Under the new fee structure those making up to 205 percent would pay the old fees, and those above that would be asked to pay $20 for one child per month and $10 for each additional child.
The Legislative Council predicted that because of the fee increase, 20 percent of the recipients of care would drop off the lists and the bill would generate $1.5 million in additional enrollment fees from those who stay in the program and pay the higher fees.
However, as noted by Democrats on the House floor and by Legislative Council staff, most of the children who leave the program will find themselves without insurance, which will create undetermined costs to the public system through emergency room visits and other uncompensated hospital costs.
“We are talking about children here. The main reason for this bill is to eliminate over 2,000 from the roll, and they will be uninsured,” Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Niwot, said. “The costs associated with that, granted it may not be listed in this budget, but the costs associated with that will be additional emergency room costs, costs of future health problems, costs because they aren’t prepared to go to school and learn.”
Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Englewood, said that the effect of the cuts would be chilling.
“In truth there will be children of working families who will need to see the doctor and will not be able to because their parents could not pay the enrollment fee and they got pitched off the roll,” Kagan said.
The bill passed the House 34-30 with the budget package passing 50-14.