Senator Dave Lewis of Helena seems to only have one priority in this legislative session: voting against health care for kids. At every opportunity, he has either voted against the voter-supported initiative or to scale it back. This week, he and his Republican cohorts in the Senate Finance and Claims Committee took another whack at the program, increasing the threshold for coverage:
Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, made the proposal to scale it back to cover only 15,000 additional children, by lowering the income eligibility from 250 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent, or $44,100 for a family of four.
Lewis said the state simply can’t afford the higher level, which was in the initiative and is now in state law. The scaled-back version is still an expansion of insurance programs, he said.
“We’re not kicking anybody off,” he said. “The program hasn’t even started yet.”
I’m sure Lewis’s rationalization about not kicking anyone will offer real comfort to parents unable to afford medical care for their children.
What’s so astonishing cynical about these proposals is that the Republicans who are voting against funding CHIP know that these costs will not just vanish. People will take care of their children, either with inadequate treatment that will increase long term healthcare costs, or by taking their children to the emergency room, driving up costs across the board.
Montana voters have spoken, Senator Lewis. It’s not the task of Montana Republicans to argue that the voters didn’t know what they were doing, but to find a way to sustainably fund the program.