August 24, 2009
The Aurora office of the DMV (14391 E. 4th Avenue) will be temporarily shut pending necessary on-site improvements. They plan to re-open by the end of the year. If you live in Aurora and need to use the DMV for any services, below are the next closest locations to you:
- 17924 Cottonwood Dr. in Parker.
- 1865 W. Mississippi Ave., Unit C, in Denver.
- 4685 Peoria St., Suite 115, in Denver.
- 500 Malley Dr. in Northglenn.
August 21, 2009
Budget shortfalls have been so abundant that we hardly take notice of what it will mean in real consequences and the City of Aurora is no exception. Libraries are particularly vulnerable in a recession or when there is a budget shortfall.
Why do we care about our libraries? Here are a few of the services they provide to us:
- help children in school
- job searching
- health & medical information
- community events
- access to national / international databases
- free source to learn about anything we want
- safe. quiet place to study
- resources for benefits
Perhaps hardest to quantify is the inspiration from the love of learning, feeding hungry minds and allowing imagination to bloom. All things and all worlds are possible in the library. Libraries have been an essential component to the vision of our democratic republic since our founding fathers. It is a place where citizens become informed to make good decisions and participate in civic society.
But here's what is at stake if the measure to save Aurora's Libraries fail. We will be looking at closure of 4 libraries and cutting approximately 40 jobs of people who are trained to serve and help the public with their educational, business and personal needs. These cuts are even more devastating in light of the fact that demand and use is up dramatically by our citizens. The need is higher now than ever.
We need to invest in good materials at the library. Currently Aurora is at the bottom of spending per capita on collection materials at $2.60 per capita and after the projected budget cuts in 2010 that figure wil go down to $0.96 per capita. That compares with Arapahoe at $11.75 and Douglas at $10.90 per capita.
Libraries should be open. Currently Aurora is also near the bottom of hours the libraries are open per capita (.042) which has left the Chambers Library open only 16 hours per week and the main library closed on Fridays.
For more information about what you can do to save Aurora's libraries, visit, http://www.saveauroralibraries.com or call 303.350.8869.
August 12, 2009
Nope. Not according to the Colorado Association of Health Plans and the Colorado Association of Insurance Underwriters.
The Health Care Task Force reconsidered the practice of gender rating in the individual health insurance market on August 10th. The initial effort to repeal the gender discrimination provision was carried last session in HB 09-1224 (Schafer – M. Carroll) but the insurance lobby was successful in rolling back into a study instead.
Here's what we know:
- Gender rating has been a prohibited practice of gender discrimination in the small and large group employer-provided insurance markets since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as confirmed by the United States Supreme Court.
- Women are charged as much as 30 – 40% more than men for the same coverage in individual health insurance plans.
- Maternity coverage is not included in any of Colorado's individual health insurance plans.
- As of 2007, 18% of Colorado women had no health insurance.
- More than 130,000 Colorado women aged 19 – 64 received health insurance through the individual market in 2006-2007 and paid more than men.
- Under current Colorado law, a woman may pay more than a man for comparable coverage, even if she has less medical claims history.
- Women on average still earn less than men (approximate $0.77 to the dollar) and are less able to absorb the unjustified premiums increase.
- When women are disproportionately priced out of the individual market, we are are often taking their children with them to the roles of the uninsured.
- One in five Colorado women aged 18 – 44 had no health insurance. Among them, 46% worked full time and more than half reported having a household income of less than $25,000.
- In Colorado women (age 25) will pay between 1o% – 56% more than men for similar coverage.
- In Colorado women (age 40) will pay between 15% – 59% more than men for similar coverage.
- In Colorado women (age 55) will pay between 9% less and 2% more than men for similar coverage.
- A non-smoking woman will still pay more than a smoking man despite the evidence of increased health risk and therefore cost exposure.
Around the country, where states allow gender discrimination in individual health insurance markets:
- Women (age 25) are charged anywhere from 6% – 45% more than men for similar plans.
- Women (age 40) are charged anywhere from 4% – 48% more than men for similar plans.
- Women (age 55) are charged anywhere between 22% less and 37% more than men for similar health plans.
- The wide variability demonstrates that it is not based on actuarial data or the ranges would be closer.
If a person does not have access to health insurance through their employer and they are not otherwise legally indigent, the ONLY place he or she can get coverage is in the individual health insurance market where:
- They can refuse to underwrite people (for any price) for pre-existing conditions (and some carriers count pregnancy as a "pre-existing condition".
- The rates are already significantly higher than in the small or large group market.
- The more the individual health market fails women the more uninsured women and children we have at a greater cost to the system.
Insurance rating should be fair to men and women. Even though women are paying much more than men for the same coverage, it is important to note that coverage remains unaffordable and inaccessible to hundreds of thousands of men too.
Perhaps the strangest comments came from the insurance underwriters who when asked suggested that we "blame God" because men's parts were on the outside and women's parts were on the inside. Seriously? Perhaps his brain is on the outside. Rep. Joyce Foster thanked him for the visual but thought that basic fairness in paying similar price for similar coverage ought to rule the day.
And there is nothing like a policy discussion about gender to evoke a comment like, "women like to shop" from Rep. Jim Kerr who suggested that this "universal fact" should be put to use for women to do a better job shopping for insurance.
Maybe they should talk to their wives, daughters, sisters and women constituents about what they think about that stereotype.
That aside, the committee reviewed an enormous amount of data and research including testimony from NCSL where the other states that prohibited gender rating did not report any related problems with rate increases due to this or carriers leaving the market.
There are a lot of issues in health care that are complicated or hard to solve, but not this. The solution is easy. We just need to decide if we want to solve it.
August 11, 2009
If you haven't been following the Interim Committee on Pinnacol Assurance, you may want to. The state workers compensation insurance fund has the largest market share in the state (57%) and as a result directly or indirectly impacts most businesses and employees in Colorado, whether they know it or not.
The committee was created by SB 09-281 to "study, make recommendations and report findings on all matters relating to the operation of Pinnacol Assurance."
The purpose of this committee is to ensure that policyholders are getting the best deal, that injured workers are being treated appropriately and that our workers compensation insurer of last resort is solvent and stable.
There will be 6 committee meetings. The first was held August 4th which gave a history and overview of Pinnacol and Colorado workers comp.
Below is a short description of what we will be covering each day:
August 14 – Rates, Compensation, Expenses, Policyholders
August 31 – Medical Providers, Injured Workers
Sept 4 – Different Future Models (Private, Public, Risk Pool, Hybrid etc)
Sept 18 – Recommendations, Drafts
Oct 16 – Final Votes
You can obtain information about our schedule, who is on the committee, when and where we will meet and get copies of all documents reviewed by the committee by going to: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/lcsstaff/2009/comsched/09PinnacolAssurance.html
The state compensation insurance fund was first created in statute in 1915. It was created as a political subdivision of the state and operated as a state agency until 1987 when the SCIF was removed from the state agency and the State Compensation Insurance Authority was created. In 1990 the legislature changed the SCIA to the Colorado Compensation Insurance Authority and modified the governing board and in 2002 the legislature changed the name of CCIA to Pinnacol Assurance, funds were transferred from the state treasury to the board and while they remained a political subdivision of the state, they were further directed to operate like a domestic mutual insurance company.
Almost every state has a mechanism for the "residual market", sometimes known as an insurer of last resort. Historically, this was because of a lack of available insurance to cover workers compensation. Also, as states began mandating that employers provide workers compensation insurance to cover all employees, many carriers would refuse to underwrite higher risk industries. In order to make sure that all employees are covered and at a reasonable rate to employers, states saw the need awhile ago to have a residual market mechanism.
The Legislative Intent of the Workers Compensation Act in CRS 8-40-102 provides that,
"It is the intent of the general assembly that the "Workers Compensation Act of Colorado be interpreted so as to assure the quick and efficient delivery of disability and medical benefits to injured workers at a reasonable cost to employers, without the necessity of any litigation, recognizing that the workers' compensation system in Colorado is based on a mutual renunciation of common law rights and defenses by employers and employees alike."
The committee will be deciding if the current structure of Pinnacol in law has sufficient clarity, and will evaluate models used by the 50 states for their residual workers compensation markets, evaluate the pros and cons for injured workers, policyholders and the people of the State.
Questions began to emerge as people questioned why a non-profit political subdivision of the state could amass over $2 billion in assets, $1.2 billion in reserves and $700 million in surpluses (4 -6 time more than levels recommended by the Division of Insurance). Because surpluses have been generally growing at a rate of $100 million per year some people began wondering if policyholders were being over-charged or if injured workers were being wrongly denied treatment and benefits. Of course, there are some people who don't there is any role for oversight here at all.
While the committee has up to 8 bills available, we will not know what, if any, changes are appropriate until we hear the testimony and input. All ideas are welcome and will be considered.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is the committee considering reviving the prior discussion of cash transfer from Pinnacol?
Q: Are there other models for how states operate their workers compensation carrier of last resort?
A: Yes, several.
Q: Is Pinnacol Public or Private?
A: Pinnacol is a quasi-government state compensation insurance fund. It is a creation of state statute, a political subdivision of the state, pays no state / federal / property taxes or court fees. It's employees participate in the Public Employee Retirement Account (PERA) and its Board is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. However, it is directed to operate LIKE a domestic mutual insurance company, so it will have features like a domestic mutual such as: being regulated by the Division of Insurance, filing lost-cost multipliers, and their ability to pay dividends to policyholders. It is legally different than a true domestic mutual insurance company in that it can only underwrite one line of business, that it is subject to the state auditor, and that it can not refuse to underwrite high risk business. The status of Pinnacol is not easy to understand and that very ambiguity has prompted some to recommend we clarify that status.
I am attaching a chart that clarifies the status:
August 10, 2009
A FEW BACKGROUND FACTS:
- Colorado is a Balanced Budget State that requires we balance the budget every year.
- Budgeting begins on forecasts and must "true up" as figures become available.
- The legislature retains control over less than 20% of the budget.
- The cuts we make over the next few years will be permanent.
MORE CUTS ON THE WAY:
The unemployment rate in Colorado has not only been devastating to the families who are experiencing job loss but also for all public services that depend on individual income taxes. Individual income tax collections declined by $735 million. Sales and Use tax declined by $215.2 million. Corporate income tax collections declined by $176.6 million. The 2008-09 budget reductions will be approximately $1.13 Billion. The shortfall for the 2009-10 budget was $1.454 Billion with a remaining shortfall of $438 Million to be cut ($1.855 Billion in Cuts). The 2010-11 budget will include mandated spending increases of $463 Million (federal mandates, CO constitution) and the preliminary base budget is $503 million short (that already assumes $422 million in PERMANENT base reductions from 2009-10 ($900 million projected shortfall). This represents nearly $4 Billion in cuts over a 3 year period. These cuts will mean closing significant public services for the people of Colorado.
ECONOMIC INDICATORS HAVE DECLINED:
- The state is projected to lose 84,600 jobs in 2009 and another 8,600 in 2010.
- Personal income is projected to decrease by 0.3% in 2009 (as opposed to previous 10 yr avg increase of 5.9%.
- Retail trade is projected to decline by 7.8% in 2009.
- Higher education was helped by ARRA stimulus funding during the last fiscal year
- However we are spending less on higher ed in general fund per student than we were in 2000.
- When cuts are made to higher education, it drives up the cost of tuition.
- Higher education is a critical component to our economic recovery.
- TABOR formula does not allow us to adjust for caseload growth.
- Medicaid Caseload has brown every year since 2000.
- For every $1 we cut in Medicaid, we lose another $1 in federal funds.
- Individuals not covered through Medicaid shift costs to the ER.
- Inmate population has continued to grow.
- We are incarcerating over 23,000 inmates at an average expense of $28,000 per year.
- 1 in 29 adults in Colorado are now under some form of correctional control.
- We spent nearly twice as much on corrections as higher education.
Figures based on projections, forecasts and data from Legislative Council and the Office of State Budget & Planning.
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