Nov 16, 2017

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ACTION ALERT: Save the Individual Mandate!

by | Nov 16, 2017

We know that you have read or heard a lot about the tax reform proposals being considered by Congress. Both the House and Senate plans provide big tax breaks for the very wealthy, raise taxes for as many as one third of the middle class and eliminate many important tax deductions — such as the medical deduction — while raising the national debt by $1.5 trillion. You’ve also heard the proposals will inevitably lead to very large cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there.

This week, in yet another attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Senate added a provision to the tax bill that would repeal the ACA’s requirement for individuals to obtain health insurance or pay a fee  — also known as the individual mandate.  Eliminating this mandate would fundamentally disable the structure of the ACA and increase the cost of health insurance at a disastrous rate.

It is rare to see consumer groups, the American Medical Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans all agree so strongly on a policy initiative. But all concur that repealing the mandate is a terrible idea.  The strength of the insurance market place is based on widespread participation.  All of us agree to pay in now so that we can have insurance when we need it. Every type of insurance works this way — homeowners, auto insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.

The ACA was built on the premise that insurance carriers could cover pre-existing conditions without raising the cost of insurance for those with such conditions so long as everyone was required to have health insurance.

No insurance company can afford to cover only people who have substantial claims. Carriers cannot remain viable if healthy people wait until they get sick to purchase insurance. We all need to participate in order to make insurance and particularly coverage of preexisting conditions affordable.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that eliminating the individual mandate will result in 13 million people losing health insurance coverage nationwide and an increase of 10 percent a year over the current baseline in individual premiums.    As insurance premiums rise, will insurance carriers continue to offer coverage in the individual market — especially if the Administration keeps making it difficult for insurers to participate? Certainly insurance will be unaffordable for many seniors and people with pre-existing conditions — including those who need or want to retire early, who lose their job, try to start a new business, or need some time off because they are ill or need to care for a loved one.

We note this proposal comes at a time when, despite a gloomy prognosis for enrollment from the President, more people than ever are signing up for health insurance.  Compared to last year, almost double the number of people have enrolled during this open enrollment period, which began Nov.1. The ACA is working for many Americans.

We will keep sounding the same refrain until Congress turns its attention to what it can do to improve rather than destroy the ACA. We hope you will too.  Please call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to preserve the individual mandate.

The Senate bill includes the mandate repeal, the bill the House approved on Thursday doesn’t include the repeal of the individual mandate, but the House will consider the issue after the Senate votes. We understand the Senate will likely vote by Dec. 1.

Members of Congress stopped previous actions to undo the ACA after hearing their constituents concerns. With your help, we can stop this latest effort to destroy the ACA and work on constructive solutions to make quality health care affordable for all.

– By Elisabeth Arenales

Recent articles

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.