Feb 19, 2016

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Legislative Update: Feb. 19, 2016

by | Feb 19, 2016

Support drug-cost transparency
High prescription drug prices are indisputably one of the drivers of health care costs — raising health insurance premiums and contributing to increasing out-of-pocket costs for consumers. While the pharmaceutical industry points to the cost of research and development in setting their prices, studies show other factors come to play. As far back as 2000, Families USA reported that drug companies spent more than twice as much on marketing, advertising and administration that they did on R&D.

Though factors such as hospital services account for a larger share of health care costs, the effect of increasing drug costs is substantial. Sponsored by Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, House Bill 1102 attempts to address such concerns by requiring drug manufactures that produce a prescription course that exceeds more than $50,000 a year to provide a report detailing production costs to a data-collecting entity.

CCLP supports the bill with amendments because it provides an opportunity to shed light on rising prescription drug costs that could inform solutions to cure the problem. Representatives from the pharmaceutical testified against the bill, saying it would raise administrative costs and possibly stifle innovation. The bill was laid over at the House Committee on Health, Insurance and Environment on Thursday. It will be brought back for a vote in the future with new amendments that could address the concerns of some committee members.

Whether HB 1102 passes or not, we encourage policymakers and health care stakeholders to look at high prescription costs in the quest of improving the access and affordability of health care in Colorado.

Learn more about our work in addressing the high cost of prescription drugs to consumers in this CCLP blog posting from last year.

Bill to Watch: HB 1090
The difficulties that cause families to lose their homes to foreclose are financially stressful to say the least. But even when a house is foreclosed, there is often equity and other proceeds left over for the former homeowner after liens, claims and other obligations have been settled. People who call themselves foreclosure consultants purport to help people who’ve lost their homes by recovering such assets.

Unfortunately, many who provide such services charge a high “finder’s fee” that could siphon what little money their customers have left to rebuild their lives.

House Bill 1090, sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver and Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, caps the “finder’s fee” at 20 percent of the amount recovered two years following a foreclosure. CCLP supports the legislation because it will prevent consultants from taking advantage of low-income Coloradans who are already on the margins and potentially help them in their efforts to achieve economic security.

The legislation was approved by the Colorado House of Representatives and was assigned to the Senate Committee on Business, Labor & Technology.

On the Radar
HB 1227 would lift the requirement for low-income parents who are teenagers or victims of domestic violence to disclose the identity of the other parent when applying for childcare assistance. CCLP supports the bill.

HB 1196 would establish a statewide pilot program for college savings for preschool children. CCLP supports the bill.

Off the Radar
SB 54, which would let municipalities set the minimum wage to meet the needs of the local economy, was killed by a vote of 3-2 in the Senate Committee on State, Military and Veterans Affairs. CCLP testified in support of the bill on Wednesday.

CCLP will continue to push efforts to raise the minimum wage – which falls far short of meeting the basic needs of most families across the state, according to CCLP’s Self-Sufficiency Standard report.

– Bob Mook

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.