Mar 22, 2019

Recent articles

Legislative Update: March 22, 2019

by | Mar 22, 2019

Bill to Watch: HB 1239
As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the census process happens only once every 10 years, but the outcomes reverberate for the next decade. The census is the foundational underpinning of our democracy, in large part because congressional districts are re-apportioned on the basis of the census.

Unfortunately, people who are under-counted are generally under-represented in the political process. For example, low-income people are at greater risk of being under-counted because they often lack access to the internet (2020 is going to be the first primarily online census). Under-counted people may reside in hard-to-reach rural areas, or they may live in non-standard housing that U.S. Census workers may overlook during their canvassing phase. Also, people of color and people who have recently immigrated to the United States, along with those with English-language barriers tend to be disproportionately under-counted.

Political power isn’t the only thing at stake, however: Colorado receives billions of dollars every year in federal funding that is based on the number of people living within the state, and on the composition and demographic makeup of the people who live here. One recent study estimated that Colorado stands to lose over $2,000 per person, per year in federal funds for anyone who is missed by the census. Add that all up, and Colorado could stand to lose more than $63 billion in federal funding over the next decade if the census under-counts just 1 percent of the people living in our state.

Known as the “Everyone Counts in Colorado Act,” House Bill 1239 would create a $12 million grant program within the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which would be awarded to local governments and nonprofits throughout the state to increase outreach efforts for the U.S. Census.

For all the reasons stated above, we need to ensure that every Coloradan counts in the 2020 census. HB 1239 would help that happen. CCLP strongly supports the legislation, sponsored by Reps. Kerry Tipper and Yidira Caraveo. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on March 26.

Bill to Watch: HB 1216
The staggering costs of insulin have been well-documented in the media and are making some people with diabetes choose between their health and other basic needs. Because so many plans in state-regulated plans have large deductibles, enrollees with diabetes must pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket in the first few months of the year before they get help with cost. On top of that, many or most plans require that enrollees pay a percentage of the drug’s price–coinsurance rather than a flat copay — creating a significant financial burden even after someone has satisfied their deductible. When drugs are unaffordable, patients ration their use, resulting in dangerous and costly health crises.

HB 1216 would make insulin more affordable by capping copays in Colorado at $100 per 30-day prescription. The legislation also would authorize Colorado’s Attorney General to investigate and analyze the factors driving up insulin costs, based on information from state agencies, carriers, drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers and to then report back with recommendations to legislators, Colorado’s Division of Insurance and the governor.

Sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, the bill cleared the House Health and Insurance Committee on a 9-2 vote on Wednesday. Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Health Program Director, testified in support of the legislation.

On the Radar
After hearing persuasive testimony on Tuesday from Coloradans with severe disabilities the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee passed HB 1223 by a vote of 8-1. Developed by CCLP, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, HB 1223 would create a statewide program that helps individuals with severe disabilities navigate the process of applying for SSI and SSDI. Thanks to Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Rep. Colin Larson for sponsoring this important measure that will help more Coloradans meet their basic needs and avoid homelessness. Read testimony in support of the bill from Allison Neswood, CCLP’s Health Care Attorney.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 180 by a vote of 3-2. Developed by CCLP and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, SB 180 would appropriate funds to provide legal assistance for low-income Coloradans facing eviction and help them to avoid the devastating trauma of a forced move.

Thanks Sen. Faith Winter for sponsoring SB 180 in the Senate. Also, thanks to the dozens of coalition partners who supported the legislation. CCLP’s Family Economic Security Attorney and Policy Advocate, Jack Regenbogen led the testimony on the measure.

– By 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.