Colorado editorials: If CHIP dies, children will, too |

Colorado editorials: If CHIP dies, children will, too

If CHIP dies, children will, too

Colorado officials have drafted a letter warning tens of thousands of state residents that the children in their care may soon lose coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. It’s a sad message, and a sad testament to Congress’ inability to set aside partisan politics long enough to help protect the most vulnerable among us.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill failed to renew funding for CHIP by Sept. 30, and unless they act soon, states will run out of money for the program by next spring at the latest. Colorado’s funds would be depleted by Jan. 31, a reality that’s prompted the state’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to prepare an early warning to the families of recipients. It’s scheduled to go in the mail this week if funding is not renewed.

“Ask your doctor’s or dentist’s office for the names of the private insurance plans they accept,” the letter states. “Write this information down in case you need to shop for a private insurance plan.”

Therein lies the problem: CHIP was established 20 years ago to help families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but don’t earn enough to obtain private insurance that doesn’t bust their household budget. It was a success in that regard, helping lower the share of uninsured children from close to 14 percent in 1997 to 4.9 percent in 2015, when it was last renewed by Congress.

Even with the arrival of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the cost of private insurance remains out of reach for many of the 90,000 children and pregnant women who currently receive coverage from CHIP in Colorado. The news will be no better for the 9 million children who now have free or low-cost access to routine checkups, immunization, and other medical, dental and vision care through CHIP.

The program certainly isn’t perfect, costing about $14 billion a year. Addressing CHIP’s flaws requires a scalpel and a skilled hand, but lawmakers have brought a sledgehammer and a slow, lazy swing.

Rather than reach a compromise that might gradually lower costs, most Republicans and Democrats are poised to let the program die if they don’t get their way. That would consign millions of children to limited health care simply because they’re poor.

Colorado’s U.S. senators — Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet — have shown leadership in co-sponsoring a bill that would extend federal funding five years but phase out increases in funding that went into effect as part of the ACA. It’s not the best solution, but it would prevent children from taking the brunt of the disagreement.

When the CHIP program was introduced, it was a bipartisan effort that enjoyed popular support. It still does. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that six-in-10 Americans think reauthorization of CHIP should be a priority. Numerous children’s advocates and medical professionals, including Children’s Hospital Colorado, are also urging continuation of the program.

Unfortunately, lawmakers are too preoccupied with trying to score points against one another to renew CHIP. Their intransigence is the sole reason a warning letter is poised for delivery to Coloradans.

The Denver Post, Nov. 24

Our ground-up economic surge helps workers first

After meeting with candidate Donald Trump in 2016, The Gazette’s editorial board encouraged him to focus on growth.

Unleash the market, we wrote, “to grow and share wealth through the jobs required to generate profits.” We hoped Trump would dispense with trickle-down. We preferred he open a floodgate, releasing waters that could lift the bottom 90 percent.

We believed Americans would achieve far more than 1 percent growth if released from oppressive regulations and taxes.

Among Trump’s first actions was an executive order that requires federal agencies to rescind two regulations each time they issue a new one. Close a floodgate, open two. The order told businesses and investors they would no longer endure increasing federal obstruction.

Later, Trump issued an order to undo former President Barack Obama’s requirement that federal agencies account for global warming when building infrastructure. Trump streamlined environmental studies required for approval of public works projects. All environmental reviews must be done under one lead agency. The permitting process for projects requiring federal approval should take 90 days or fewer, making big construction projects “shovel ready” in years less time.

Trump reduced regulations on mining and coal, preceding a national increase in mining of nearly 30 percent that leads overall growth in the gross domestic product.

While ordering pro-growth policies, Trump promised to reduce corporate taxes.

Through all his obnoxious tweets and shockingly nonpresidential behavior, Trump has promised less federal government and more unrestrained private sector progress.

The third-quarter economic growth rate was 3 percent, after nearly a decade of growth that never surpassed 1 percent. Economists expect even more growth in the year ahead. The economy has created more than 1 million jobs since Trump began deregulation.

The first-line recipients of this year’s growth are middle-income, blue-collar workers who have endured stagnant wages for nearly two decades. They are miners, electricians, construction workers, truckers, plumbers and others who benefit when reduced regulations and anticipated tax relief inspire investment in construction, mining and manufacturing.

The question during this surge is not when the riches will trickle down. The question is when they will percolate up to the professional class. This is a ground-up recovery.

“Blue-collar wages have begun to rocket,” explains a recent analysis in The Economist. “In the year to the third quarter, wage and salary growth for the likes of factory workers, builders and drivers easily outstripped that for professionals and managers. In some cases, blue-collar pay growth now exceeds 4 percent.”

The Economist is loath to credit Trump but concedes “his promise to deregulate the energy sector may have spurred some investment.”

You think? The number of active oil rigs in the United States has nearly doubled in the past year. Mines are substantially increasing production for the first time in a decade, reviving Rust Belt and Midwest regions that played a disproportionate role in electing Trump.

If deregulating energy causes it to grow, overall deregulation probably has the same effect on other sectors.

“Rightly or wrongly, the biggest beneficiary of a sustained wage boom for workers may be a suited man sitting in the Oval Office,” The Economist concludes.

Americans understandably wish Trump would act like a statesman, or just an average adult. Economic forces don’t care what the president tweets. They respond to the levers he pulls, unleashing a mighty surge when the floodgates slide open.

The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Nov. 28

Tax reform: It’s necessary, but must be fair, equitable and not further bankrupt our country

What the tax-reform package — if any — that Congress eventually sends to the president will include is anyone’s guess. The possible components of this $1.5 trillion dollar “cut,” though, are lined up for all to see.

Congress cannot simplify ordinary Americans’ tax forms without eliminating deductions, and for some, the increased standard deduction will balance the losses. For others, it will not, and Congress is banking on those increases to help pay for other cuts.

Taxpayers are analyzing which features would lower their tax bills and who might get hurt, and businesses are trying to guess how any money that’s freed up might be spent. Under the House bill, 47 million households – more than a third – will pay more in federal taxes.

The ramifications of tax reform extend far beyond those for individual taxpayers, because specific provisions of a tax bill can affect the economic shape of a community.

Most of the benefits do cluster far above the income level of the average household or small business, and not much is likely to trickle down. According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, 59 percent of the benefits would go to the top 1 percent of income earners. The president has trumpeted that the economy has reached full employment and interest rates are low. Many analysts believe there is little benefit to be had, but significant risks.

Colorado funds 30 percent of its budget from the federal government, which pays for things such as transportation, farm and public health programs and health care for lower-income families. A small tax cut for those who may receive it has to be balanced against what will be lost in needed programs.

One significant area of concern is around education. How will changes in the tax code affect higher education? The Washington Post reports that provisions in the House bill could raise costs to students and families by $71 billion over the next decade. Various higher-ed costs have been deductible because an educated workforce benefits both communities and the nation, while also raising individual income.

Now the deduction for student-loan interest could be cut. Tuition waivers for post-graduate education might become taxable. Will that push college and vocational education out of reach for more individuals?

Loss of the deduction for medical expenses undeniably would make health care less affordable for patients who need more than routine care. If the tax-cut package eventually includes cuts to Medicaid and/or Medicare, or if it eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, fewer people will be able to afford care they need.

When local “sin taxes” levies are proposed for sales of tobacco, marijuana and alcohol, or even on such unhealthful items as soda, detractors rail against “social engineering via taxation.” Any alteration of the federal tax code is likely to amount to some noticeable social engineering as well. Some groups will benefit. Some will lose ground.

Because modern Americans tend to congregate in communities of their peers, some of those communities will benefit; others will suffer.

So far, the suffering appears likely to settle close to home, while the advantages land elsewhere.

Cortez Journal, Nov. 27

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