Winners and Losers - May 2002

Denver Women's Commission
Winners and Losers - May 2002

May 31, 2002


Prepared by Chaer Robert
for Colorado Woman News

Winners and Losers

Who gained as a result of this year's state legislative session? Who lost? This was a tough year to be a legislator. Instead of deciding who should benefit from our revenue surpluses of yesteryear, they debated how to cut about a billion dollars out of the state budget.

WINNERS

Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking -- Those working for employers of 50 or more, with one-year tenure, will be eligible for up to 3 days (unpaid) to attend to matters resulting from the crime (HB1051). Restraining order process-serving fees and civil court filing fees will be waived for all such victims (HB1034).

Victims of sexual assault -- Convicted sex offenders who work at, volunteer at, or attend colleges will have to register based on that location as well (HB1114). The struggle continues to make the sex offender registry an accurate, up to date tool. Now sex offenders will have to register upon sentencing (SB10).

Pregnant women without health insurance -- The state currently covers those who earn below 133% of federal poverty level ($19,977. for a family of three). Upon waiver approval, the state will cover those up to 185% of poverty level (27,787. for a family of three). About 3000 women per year will be served under this expansion.


LOSERS

Low income workers-- While middle class and upper income workers will continue to benefit from previous permanent income tax rate reductions, low wage workers lost out. Next year there will be no money for a State Earned Income Tax Credit, as it remains conditional on surpluses with the defeat of HB 1249. While homeowners continue to benefit from the federal income tax deduction of home mortgage interest, state funds to help finance affordable housing were cut. An attempt (SB191) to expand Colorado's stingy unemployment insurance coverage failed. We penalize low-wage, part-time and recent entry workers.

Lesbians and Gays -- The legislature continued to deny protection again discrimination in the workplace (SB74). In most places in Colorado, an employer can fire someone solely because they are lesbian. Crimes against individuals because of their sexual orientation (SB9) will not be considered hate crimes. One victory was gained. The senate defeated a bill to prevent two same sex parents from signing onto a birth certificate (HB1356).

Prescription Drug Users -- The legislature quickly killed a handful of proposals to aid those without prescription drug coverage and to save money spent by the State on prescription drugs (e.g. SB162). Perhaps the only good side effect was the active promotion of reduced-cost prescription drugs programs created by pharmaceutical companies, in part, to stave off legislation.

Rural Health Care Providers -- This endangered species received a few new blows. A tax credit for rural health care providers, recommended for expansion to a wider range of professionals, was defeated due to budget concerns (HB1006). The existing tax credit for some rural providers will not be in effect again until the budget improves. Previously, health plans had "network adequacy" requirements. They had to have an adequate network of health care providers in an area to serve that area. These requirements were greatly relaxed this year (HB1003). The hope is that more insurers will offer policies in rural areas if they do not need as many rural providers. The fear is that the commute to obtain health care may lengthen significantly.

OVERTIME

Small Business Employees-- Legislators considered dozens of bills to address the exploding health care premium costs for small employers. Attempts to allow insurers to charge more for those with health problems were defeated. Protections such as newborn coverage, mental health coverage, diabetes supply coverage, mammograms, etc. survived for the moment. Health plans would need to finish their contract year before pulling out of the market. The legislature promoted high deductible and catastrophic plans, which should cost less because the employer or employee pays more before coverage kicks in. Many have theories about what would fix the current health care coverage crisis. There was no consensus. Legislators established an interim committee to give more thoughtful consideration to the problems than the 11th hour rewrite of HB 1003 permitted. It will meet over the summer.


The complete text of these bills is available at www.state.co.us/gov_dir/stateleg.html
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