Last month I wrote about Colorado Senate Bill 213, and the ramifications its passage would likely have on the number of children covered by CHP+. The bill passed in the House and Senate, but yesterday Governor Hickenlooper vetoed it, explaining that he did so in order to prevent children from losing coverage (this would almost certainly have been the outcome if the bill had been signed into law). SB213 would have required some families – those on the higher end of the income scale for CHP+ eligibility – to pay monthly premiums ranging from $20 to $50 in order to have their children covered by CHP+.
The proposed premiums were relatively small, and the bill had widespread legislative support. It would have helped to fund the CHP+ program, but it would have also meant that more children in Colorado would be uninsured. Even though the premiums proposed by SB213 would have been no more than $600/year for a family (regardless of how many children the family had enrolled in the program), experts had noted that this amount would still serve as a barrier that would prevent some families from enrolling their children, and would also cause some struggling families currently enrolled in CHP+ to drop out of the program. More uninsured children is definitely not the way we want to go, as Colorado is already near the bottom of the country in terms of the percentage of our kids who are without health insurance.
Welfare reform proposals generally have widespread support, although the realities for struggling families are often quite different than what people imagine. Sen Greg Brophy, a Republican from Wray, noted that families with kids enrolled in CHP+ are more likely to smoke and buy lottery tickets than other families:
“So instead of paying for their kids’ health care, they are playing in the lottery and buying cigarettes. Oh, and by the way, most of them have air conditioning. So instead of paying for their kids’ health care, they are paying for their air conditioning bills, and it goes on and on and on. I think they should put a little bit of skin in the game.”
I think Senator Brophy’s ideas are likely quite popular with people who were born on third base. Much has been written about the downward spiral that results from income inequality, by people far more eloquent than myself. The only additional point that probably needs to be made here is that if SB213 had been signed into law, it would have been children that lost coverage, children who went without healthcare, and children who ultimately were being set up for poorer health later in life. Even if parents with kids in CHP+ do smoke and buy lottery tickets at a higher rate than parents with private health insurance, what’s to make us think that they would all of a sudden stop spending money on those things and instead pay premiums for CHP+? Is our goal to punish those parents for what better-off families view as poor choices, or is the goal to make sure that as many kids as possible have health insurance? If it’s the latter, then the point made by Senator Brophy is irrelevant.