Gretchen Hammer is executive director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved.
Stair-stepping may be good exercise, but it is not good policy for families with children enrolled in public health insurance programs.
Colorado's "stair-stepping" approach to eligibility leads to confusion, inefficiency and unnecessary costs. Currently, a family with two kids, ages 4 and 7, and an annual income of $28,000, would be enrolled in two different programs. (The 4-year-old is eligible for Medicaid while the 7-year-old qualifies for Child Health Plan Plus [CHP+]). Because Colorado manages Medicaid and CHP+ separately, that means kids from the same family receive different benefits and enrollment cycles. It even means the siblings might receive primary care from different providers.
Fortunately, the stair-stepping approach for kids covered by public insurance is about to change. Thanks to bipartisan leadership, Colorado lawmakers recently enacted Senate Bill 8. Sponsored by Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood and Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, SB 8 aligns Medicaid eligibility for all children below 133 percent of the federal poverty level — regardless of age. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on April 8.
This law fulfills a campaign promise by Gov. Hickenlooper to reduce red tape for families and make government more "efficient, effective and elegant." Aligning our Medicaid eligibility will free up the valuable time community-based organizations and county and state agencies currently spend helping families navigate the eligibility and program differences.
Aligning our Medicaid eligibility also saves the state money because of the differences in costs between Medicaid and CHP+ and federal matching funding for the programs. Implementing this change now will help Colorado doctors caring for these children take advantage of federally funded enhanced payment rates in 2013 and 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act.
In otherwise difficult times, this is a big step in the right direction — and a big win for Colorado.
Senate Bill 8 represents a step forward in improving the eligibility for Colorado kids on government health insurance programs. What are some other positive health policy changes lawmakers made during this year's General Assembly that warrant attention? Post your thoughts in the comment box below. Please note that comments will be open for two weeks from the initial post date. Follow the Foundation's work on Facebook and Twitter.