If your head is spinning from the news – natural disasters, security threats and the most recent Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act – you are not alone. There is a dizzying amount of high-stakes activity going on around the world – and in Congress.
The most recent effort to repeal the ACA has our attention because of the very real consequences it has for some of the most vulnerable Americans – children, the poor, the elderly and disabled.
Last week, the Colorado Health Institute was in Durango to announce the results of its Colorado Health Access Survey that every other year since 2009 has tracked Coloradan’s health insurance coverage, access to care, use of and satisfaction with health care services.
They were quick to point out a success – that because of the ACA, and for the first time ever, more than 5 million Coloradans (93.5 percent) have health insurance, including 97 percent of children from infancy to 18 – as well as some persistent challenges. Notably, that plans individuals buy on their own (8 percent of Coloradans) next year are expected to rise in cost by 27 percent.
Though it’s not looking like it has enough votes, should the Graham-Cassidy bill pass, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the stakes will get even higher for more than 80 million Americans and have substantial implications for states’ ability to finance health insurance coverage. It would hit states like Colorado, that expanded Medicaid, the hardest.
Although the Congressional Budget Office will not have a full estimate of its impact before Sept. 30, when reconciliation rules to pass a bill expire, Republicans are forging ahead without full knowledge of its impact.
What is getting lost in the frenzy is the 3 percent of Colorado kids (161,733 of them infant to 18) without insurance, and the 1.1 percent (75,254 statewide) with CHP+.
Amid the rush to repeal the ACA, there has been little to no conversation about its affect on kids (nearly half of whom make up the Medicaid rolls), or the CHP+ program that nationally covers 8 million low-income children and pregnant women and is set to expire on Saturday if bipartisan legislation to extend it is not advanced.
Locally, there are 971 kids in La Plata County and 570 in Montezuma County enrolled in CHP+. The reality is that with the heightened partisanship of this latest ACA repeal effort, an extension is unlikely, and especially devastating since Congress has funded the federal share of the program every year of its 20-year history.
CHP+ covers families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but who cannot afford private health insurance. Because having health insurance coverage is the main predictor of an individual’s ability to access care, and staying healthy, fundamental to a child’s success in school, that is the wrong direction for us to be heading.
We are counting on Congress to come to its senses, slow down and pursue bipartisan efforts to fix very real problems with our health care system, starting with renewing the CHP+ program before it expires. Penalizing the most vulnerable among us is not the way.