Mar 21, 2016

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Legislative Update: March 21, 2016

by | Mar 21, 2016

Takeaways from budget forecasts
Colorado legislators on Friday heard the quarterly revenue forecasts from economists in Governor’s Office and Legislative Council. These forecasts provide a rough guide to the current budgeting and how much revenue the state expects to receive and how much it can spend during the next fiscal year.

Members of the Joint Budget Committee work out a budget (known as “the Long Bill”) that’s aligned with the projections, keeping in mind budgetary requests and constitutional constraints, such as the amendment commonly known as TABOR.

This year, the House will have the first review of the Long Bill before it goes to the Senate. Once approved by both chambers, it goes to the governor to sign or send back.

Here are some quick observations and analysis from today’s forecasts:

* Revenues are about $111 million less than what was budgeted for this fiscal year. Although the two forecasts didn’t agree on the exact number, they concur that taxpayers will not receive TABOR refunds in tax year 2016.

* Things will get interesting in fiscal year 2016-17. The forecasts agree that revenue will grow, but state budget writers will have less to spend on services and infrastructure. That’s because somewhere between $60 million and $150 million will be refunded to taxpayers in TABOR refunds of between $12 and $100 per tax filer depending on income.

* The shortfall in 2015-16 will not threaten the availability of the state Earned Income Tax Credit because the EITC is now a permanent part of Colorado’s budget. Also counting as good news is the fact the forecasts would allow the legislature to transfer as much as $80 million from the Unclaimed Property Trust Fund in the current fiscal year for affordable housing. CCLP is promoting legislation to transfer a substantial amount of idle funds in the Unclaimed Property Trust Fund to the Division of Housing to use for rental housing for very low-income households. A bill should be introduced soon.

* Finally, the job outlook is brightening. There are currently 1.4 job seekers for every job opening, down from 2.5 at the end of last year. At the height of the recession in 2009, there were 6.8 jobseekers in the U.S. for every job.

Bill to Watch: HB 1388
Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans whose opportunities are limited by past mistakes could see their job prospects improve under a bill being considered by Colorado legislators. House Bill 1388, sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, would expand Colorado’s “ban the box” laws by prohibiting most employers from asking about criminal history on the initial job application. Most of the time, the question appears in a check-box commonly featured in application forms.

The legislation was developed by CCLP and is endorsed by a coalition of more than 50 organizations — including Mile High United Way, Denver Urban Ministries and local businesses.

Learn more about HB 1388 through this news release and on CCLP’s Responsible Re-Entry Webpage. Also, on Thursday, The Denver Post ran an article about the legislation.

On the Radar
* Senate Bill 162 would allow health care providers not enrolled with Medicaid to accept direct payment from Medicaid clients.

CCLP opposes the legislation because while it is likely intended to improve client access, there may be some significant consequences if the bill is passed. For example, Colorado and many other states have precluded non-Medicaid enrolled providers from billing Medicaid clients in an effort to protect the clients from debt collectors and harassment.   That’s because when Medicaid recipients receive needed care from providers who aren’t enrolled in the program, they may be on the hook for medical expenses they can’t afford. CCLP is also concerned that providers currently enrolled in Medicaid may drop out of the program if the bill passes so they can just start accepting cash payments. This would reduce overall availability of services to Medicaid clients.

* Kudos to Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, for building strong bipartisan support for HB 1100, which would let certain “homeless youth” qualify for in-state tuition at Colorado colleges and universities.

The legislation, which CCLP supports, passed the third reading in the Colorado House of Representatives by a vote of 49-15. Next, HB 1100 goes to the Colorado Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo.

Off the Radar
Colorado health care consumers suffered another legislative setback on Wednesday after the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed SB 152 by a vote of 3-2.

SB 152, sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, would have required health care facilities and providers to give a written disclosure notice when patients receive care that may include providers who are out of their insurance network. Too often, Coloradans who have had surgery or other services at in-network facilities find themselves on the hook for surprise bills from out-of-network providers who contract with those facilities.

Those bills may go far beyond in-network costs and be in the tens of thousands of dollars. As CCLP’s Health Care Attorney, Bethany Pray, pointed out during her testimony on Wednesday, the legislation called for “facilities, providers and carriers to notify consumers of rights that have been in statute since 2006.” The bill’s failure marks the second time in two sessions that an effort to address out-of-network costs stalled in the Colorado legislature.

While providers and insurers failed to reach a compromise after similar legislation failed last year, Bethany told the committee that consumers shouldn’t have to suffer the financial toll of unanticipated out-of-network charges. “Consumers should not be the losers in a fight between carriers and providers,” she said. “And consumers should have the information they need to exercise the rights they have been given through statute.”

– Bob Mook

Recent articles

Remarks on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization

The following remarks are provided by CCLP's executive director Tiffani Lennon. An attack on access to reproductive health is an attack on access to healthcare. Today’s attack on healthcare affects everyone, but particularly those experiencing poverty, with a...