It is very fortunate for many Colorado children that late last month the state stepped up to provide financial support for a critical insurance program for low-income families.
Because of inaction by Congress – each party blames the other – the federal Children’s Health Plan Plus (CHP+) program, which in Colorado covers 75,000 children 18 and younger, and pregnant women 19 and older, has received short-term support, but could still lose its funding at the end of January.
Colorado’s action, an emergency budget appropriation of $9.6 million approved by the Joint Budget Committee, will continue the program through February to give Congress another month to do the right thing and vote for the long-term funding the program requires.
The JBC, which shapes most of the state’s spending, is purposely balanced between Republicans and Democrats.
The federal government provides 88 percent of the insurance funding for Colorado.
The health insurance program is for individuals who make too much money for Medicaid and do not have private insurance, which could be 214 percent or more of the federal poverty level. That percentage, at least twice the poverty level, is an indication of how expensive health care coverage – driven by uncontrolled medical costs – is in this country.
Participants pay an enrollment fee of $25 or $75 depending on income, and have very low co-payment obligations, perhaps $5 to $30.
One example of the covered need, described by a state administrator, is the family that earns $72,000 annually and has a child who requires $2,200 in monthly diabetes treatment.
That expense, for just one condition for one child, could bring the family to its knees financially.
In Montezuma County, 570 children are enrolled in the program, and 950 in La Plata County. Nationally, about 9 million low-income children are enrolled, underlining the importance of the program.
Members of both parties say how important the program is, but jockey for political advantage and refuse to continue it for any length of time. If federal funding is reauthorized, Colorado’s $9.6 million commitment may not be needed.
Health care is extraordinarily expensive and, thus, so too is the insurance that covers it.
Witness the surprisingly high enrollment of more than 8 million people in the final week of registration for the Affordable Care Act, even after the registration period had been cut in half and the advertising for it dramatically reduced.
Coloradans are fortunate that the JBC is providing at least a short-term bridge for these kids’ insurance coverage.
Now, Congress needs to make its long-term commitment to the health of all our nation’s most vulnerable children.