Jun 22, 2017

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

STATEMENT: Health overhaul will hurt Coloradans

by | Jun 22, 2017

Today, the U.S. Senate released their previously “secret” version of the American Health Care Act. Senate Republicans worked on this version behind closed doors with no input from health care consumers, experts, providers or insurers.

Despite assurances from Senate leadership and President Trump to the contrary, the Senate version actually is “meaner” than the House version and will negatively affect most Coloradans.

Here are a few things the legislation will do:

* Those who received Medicaid coverage as a result of expansions from the Affordable Care Act will lose their coverage by 2020. The so-called “glide-path” included in the bill reduces the enhanced federal match rate annually between 2020 and 2024. Given Colorado’s budget issues and constitutional spending limits, there is no likely glide-path for the 450,000 Coloradans who will lose Medicaid coverage in only two and a half years. This formula expedites the glide-path originally conceived in the House version and will have more devastating effects in Colorado.

* The plan moves Medicaid funding for most populations to a per-capita cap, and ties the inflation index rate to CPI-U beginning in 2025.
  CPI-U is the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Urban. The CPI takes medical inflation into account but averages it across a range of consumer goods and services. As a result, it is not an accurate reflection of the medical inflation the state will have to fund. There is no way the state will be able to maintain our current Medicaid program using such a low inflation index.

* Lawfully present immigrants will lose eligibility for premium assistance — making it harder for them to obtain or afford insurance. The plan strips eligibility for premium tax credits for most lawfully present immigrants who are working hard but are not able to pay the full cost of health insurance — unless they have been a lawfully permanent resident for five years.

* The plan penalizes older Americans by making premium tax credit amounts dependent on income and age. For example, someone age 59 or older with an income between 300 and 350 percent of the federal poverty level will pay 16.2 percent of their income in health insurance premiums. Meanwhile, a 29-year-old in the same income range will pay only 4.3 percent.

* The plan shifts the responsibility to establish a Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) requirement to states. The ACA’s MLR requirement has meant that insurance companies had to spend 80 to 85 percent of your premium dollar on your health care. This change means that rather than using the power of the federal government to rein in costs, states will now have to fight this battle with insurance companies.

* The plan reduces affordability by ending the Cost Sharing Reduction program by 2020. The CSR program is critical to ensuring that lower-income individuals can afford their co-pays and deductibles.

* The plan removes the affordability exemption available in the ACA which permits an employee who cannot afford health insurance through their employer to move into a subsidized plan through a health insurance exchange.

* The plan maintains the current Medicaid financing structure for blind and disabled children and Medicaid-Medicare dual-eligible individuals. While these populations absolutely need protection, so does everyone else covered in the Medicaid program.

While the plan is even worse than what came out of the House, it has a good chance of passing since the Republicans who crafted the legislation hold a thin majority in the Senate. Colorado and America cannot afford for this plan to become law.

The Senate hopes to vote on this proposal before the July 4 holiday, so please call or write Sen. Cory Gardner today and let him know that Colorado deserves better!
-By Elisabeth Arenales

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

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.