Monday, February 23, 2009

Child health insurance

Bill cut-off threatens KidCare expansion

House Labor chairman puts bill in tight position

Calendar management can be key to passing – or killing – proposed legislation. Advocates for expansion of Wyoming’s KidCare Chip program saw the bill authorizing it fall into a dire situation Monday night.

House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee Chairman Jack Landon, pictured above, announced Monday evening that the committee had run out of time to hear the bill during its Monday meeting. He put it off consideration until the committee meets again Wednesday.

That puts the bill in a scheduling crunch. Any bill that has not been heard in Committee of the Whole by end of business Friday is dead for the session. The bill, Senate File 39 – Children’s health insurance program, must first win approval by the Labor committee, the be re-referred to the Appropriations Committee for a hearing on the General Fund spending it requires.

If House Labor approves it Wednesday night, it could still make it. Unfortunately, the House Appropriations Committee ordinarily does not meet on Thursday. The ESPC will join Deanna Frey of the Wyoming Children’s Action Alliance and others in asking House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosie Berger to consider SF 39 on Thursday.

Here’s what Frey said in a note to allies Monday evening:

“AT 6:50 this evening Chairman Jack Landon informed the House Labor Health and Social Services committee and those waiting to testify that SF 39 Children's Health Insurance would not be heard this evening. … At this point we need to contact members of the Labor committee asking for their positive consideration of the bill on Wednesday. The members of the committee are listed below as are the talking points previously provided.”

Here are the email addresses of Labor committee members.
  • Chairman Rep. Jack Landon - Sheridan -
  • Rep. Dave Bonner - Powell -
  • Rep. Kathy Davison - Kemmerer -
  • Rep. Ken Esquibel - Cheyenne -
  • Rep Patrick Goggles - Ethete -
  • Rep. Timothy Hallinan - Gillette -
  • Rep. Elaine Harvey -Lovell -
  • Rep. Lori Millin -Cheyenne -
  • Rep. Lisa Shepperson - Casper -
Here are the talking points offered by Ms. Frey --

"The message is simple: (information from the Wyoming Children's Action Alliance issue brief Health Care a National Priority)
  1. Wyoming's Equality Care and Kid Care CHIP programs have been very successful in helping to ensure more children from the target population, those from poor and low income families.
  2. Despite this success, the percentage of uninsured children from income brackets never eligible for government sponsored increased from 1995-2005.
  3. Working parents in Wyoming that earn between 200 and 300% of the federal poverty level are often unable to provide health insurance for their children.
  4. The funding for the bill has been reduced dramatically to $ 94,355 to provide health care for eligible children.
  5. Amendments to the bill require a increase of the parent co-pay and a parent payment of a portion of the insurance premium.

As the ESPC has noted previously, expanding the program to cover uninsured children in families making 300% of poverty merely recognizes that insurance costs have escalated to the point that even families with decent incomes cannot afford the cost.

Prime sponsor Sen. Mike Massie has presented statistics showing that the average health care policy in Wyoming covering families costs $12,800 per year. State employees pay more than $15,000 per year for family coverage. Buying insurance on the open market would take 20% of the gross income (before taxes) of families at 300% of the poverty level, Sen. Massie pointed out - an option these families could not choose and still pay for other family needs.

This bill, Ms. Frey noted, is supported by the Wyoming Education Association, the AARP, the Hospital Association, the Nurses Association, the Equality State Policy Center, and the Wyoming Children's Action Alliance and its allies.

Mental health coverage for First Responders fails

One last note ... Chairman Landon also noted that he will not bring up SF 18 Mental injury - workers compensation. The bill had been heavily amended but was a chance to address mental injuries suffered by First Responders, that is, fire fighters, police, and EMTs, in the line of duty. Sen. John Hastert steered it through heavy opposition in the Senate, but could not overcome resistance in the House. He had hoped the bill would be pulled out of House Labor and referred to House Judiciary, but that effort did not work out.

Deanna Frey contributed mightily to this report.