Gov. Ritter’s Dubious Healthcare Achievement

“Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday marked a health care milestone, announcing that more than 100,000 children have been added to state health coverage rolls since he took office.”  That includes both Medicaid, the state- and federally funded health insurance program for the poor, and Child Health Plan Plus (“CHP+”), an “optional program that covers kids from families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.” 

Basically, CHP+ covers the children of persons with a household income under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level — about $55,000/year for a family of four, or $36,400/year for a single parent (after subtracting such things as child care costs, medical expenses, child support payments, and alimony payments).  According to the CHP+ website, “[f]or most families CHP+ is free. Depending on your monthly income, you may have to pay a small enrollment fee and small co-payments when you receive services and prescriptions.”  By free, they mean paid for by Colorado taxpayers.  

For those who have to pay for CHP+ coverage, the fees are quite modest:

Annual enrollment fee:

  • $25 to enroll one child
  • $35 to enroll two or more children
  • Native Americans and Alaskan Natives do not have to pay a fee
  • And co-payments:

  • $2 to $5 per visit for medical care and prescriptions
  • $3 to $15 per visit for emergency services
  • $5 per visit for most dental services
  • Native Americans and Alaskan Natives do not have to pay co-payments
  • A couple of thoughts.  First, and this is kind of random.  Why are Native Americans and Alaskan Natives automatically exempt from any fees?  It does not seem that an Italian guy who makes 150% of the federal poverty level is somehow better-off than a Native American who also makes 150% of the federal poverty level.  My guess is that it has something to do with conditions for federal funding (otherwise including special breaks for Alaskan Natives in a Colorado program is simply bizarre), but why?

    More importantly, why are taxpayers essentially paying the healthcare costs of the children of anyone making up to $55,000/year (for a family of four), or $36,400/year (for a single parent)?  In 2008, the median household income in Colorado was $57,184.  I accept that $55,000 and $36,400 are modest incomes, but they are by no means destitution-level.  As a general matter, government support should be (i) temporary, and (ii) only for those who absolutely need it.

    Colorado is already facing a $1 billion shortfall for its 2011 budget.  Digging that hole deeper seems to be a dubious achievement.

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    Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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