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Senate panel OKs kids health insurance bills

29 02 08 - 12:08

2 measures win bipartisan support; effort a cornerstone of Ritter's reform efforts
2008-02-28 09:21:00 pm
DENVER - Two bills intended to provide health insurance for more Colorado children - the crux of Gov. Bill Ritter's 2008 health care reform proposal - got bipartisan support Thursday in their initial steps through the Legislature.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee members sent both measures to the Senate Appropriations Committee after hearing testiand pregnant women who have health care. Ritter has said that of the roughly 160,000 uninsured Colorado children, another 45,000 will get insurance under this plan.

SB160 by Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, would increase the maximum income for eligibility in Medicaid or the state's Child Health Plan Plus insurance programs. It also would presume any child applying for the programs is eligible, allowing them to sign up and receive health care immediately rather than having to wait until eligibility was verified.

SB161, meanwhile, removes some of the red tape around signing up for the insurance programs. The main provision of the bill by Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, allows the state to verify income information of applicants through government databases rather than requiring parents to submit cumbersome paperwork they sometimes do not have.

"Our patients can't get drugs, our patients can't get X-rays for broken bones, our patients can't get hospital care because they can't afford insurance," said Dr. Larry Wolk of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved. "These bills really are for the benefit of our patients."

Ritter announced his "Building Blocks for Health Care Reform Package" two weeks ago, saying while it did not provide coverage for all Colorado children as he would like, it laid the groundwork for many more kids to get health care.

In addition to the two measures approved Thursday, his proposal calls for establishment of a center for improving value in health care and creation of a Web-based report card on insurance companies.

The plan is not cheap. Hagedorn's bill alone would carry a $64.7 million price tag by 2010 if the state further expands CHP-Plus eligibility as it envisions, and Ritter has said only that he has found $25 million that can be put next year toward health care reform.

The Democratic measures, however, hit two aspects of what some call the current health care crisis. First, they expand public assistance to working-class families that make too much to qualify for free or reduced-price insurance but can't afford to buy private insurance. And second, they make an effort to reach out to the large number of kids who are eligible already for these programs - Boyd put the number at about 106,000 - but aren't signed up for them.

A separate supplemental funding bill that has passed the House includes another $1.4 million the state would use to expand efforts to get parents to register their children for the programs.
Not everyone is on board with the idea, however.

Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, cast a "no" vote against Hagedorn's proposal. And fellow Colorado Springs Republican Sen. Dave Schultheis voted against both bills after saying he, too, would like to see more children have health coverage, but doesn't think it's the government's responsibility.

"Frankly, I don't think that is a goal the government is supposed to take on, primarily because it is a redistribution of wealth," Schultheis said.

CONTACT THE WRITER: (303) 837-0613 or




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