Gov Hickenlooper’s Veto of Premiums is Win for CO Kids and Families. – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog


By Elisabeth Arenelas, Colorado Center on Law and Policy

Thanks to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper for his veto of
a bill (Senate Bill 11-213) that would have required monthly premiums for
certain children participating in Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), Colorado’s
version of the Child Health Insurance Plan.  Coverage to this particular group was expanded after the
Affordable Care Act and is therefore not protected by the “stability
provisions” of the Affordable Care Act.

The veto came after a contentious legislative process,
where the discussion was mostly about how much “skin in the game” should be
required from those participating in public health insurance programs.  Hickenlooper said in his veto message
that while he was open to requiring CHP+ families to pay more, he was unwilling
to adopt a monthly premium structure of between $20 and $50 a month that was
projected to result in 20 percent of children in this category, or 2,400 kids,
losing coverage when they are unable to keep up with premium payments.

Many people think of families in the income group
targeted by the bill as moderate income; they make between $45,818 and $55,875
a year for a family of four (205 percent to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty
Level).  The Colorado Legislature
got stuck on the idea that “they make more than we do,” rather than the data
that shows families in this income group are barely at economic
self-sufficiency. Those families struggle to make ends meet and, in any given
month, about 25 percent of them have negative balances after paying necessary
expenses and meeting other financial responsibilities. (See Cost of Care: Can
Coloradans Afford Health Care
Twenty-three percent of Coloradans in this income group were uninsured
in 2009. (2010 Current Population Survey).

Colorado advocates are relieved that Governor
Hickenlooper prioritized kids’ access to health insurance.  But we are troubled by the larger
debate over “skin in the game,” which takes us down the hard road traveled
during welfare reform — challenging what working people are doing with their
money and asking whether they deserve assistance. We hope the question the next
time this comes up is why not give the next generation a healthy start by
giving working families that last bit of help they need to insure their
children.  And we hope policy
makers realize these families have skin in the game: their kids’ lives.

The issue will come up again and again, particularly in
strained budget environments where legislators looking for sources of revenue
are raising questions about the function and purpose of our public programs.
The defeat of this measure to impose monthly premiums on CHP+ recipients in
Colorado was a victory for working families, but more battles are on the

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