Montana Healthy Kids Plan Act, I-155 (2008)
The Healthy Montana Kids Plan Act, or Initiative 155, was an initiated state statute that established a children's health insurance coverage plan for all uninsured children in the state of Montana to be in effect by December 31, 2009. The measure appeared on the November 4, 2008 ballot in Montana, where it was approved.
|Montana I-155 (Healthy Kids Plan Act)|
Official results via: The Montana Secretary of State
The proposal expanded coverage by expanding the Montana Medicaid program, the Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and a privately insured purchasing pool with premium assistance for families based on income.
The initiative also enacted the following provisions:
- Raise the income ceiling for calculating which families are eligible for CHIP to 250% of the federal poverty level, or $53,000 for a family of four. The income ceiling in the current program is 175% of the federal poverty level.
- Remove the Medicaid asset test
- Create a new pool that connects families above 200% FPL with insurance plans and provides premium assistance based on income
- Enfold all the programs under the "Healthy Montana Kids Plan"
- Establish an automatic enrollment mechanism and require parents to register their children if uninsured
- Provide for sliding scale premium assistance for families who income falls between 200% and 350% of the federal poverty level
- Establish a board of directors for the purchasing pool plan.
- Require the state to launch an aggressive, coordinated campaign to sign up eligible children for coverage, using schools, hospitals, public agencies, youth sports programs and others.
The author of the initiative was Jonathan Motl, and state Auditor John Morrison was the chief proponent of the plan. C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general of the United States (1981-1989) supported the measure.
Academy Award winning actress Olympia Dukakis showed her support for the initiative at a fundraiser in Whitefish, Montana and said that she was happy to be supporting I-155 because she considers the health and welfare of kids to be an issue of great importance.
Arguments in favor of I-155
Some of the arguments for the plan by its supporters:
- According to CHIP data it costs $1,734 annually to cover a child as opposed to $3,468 to cover an adult
- It would reduce cost shifting
- 16 percent or 37,000 children in Montana are currently uninsured.
- It would enable preventative care.
- The children of farmers and ranchers are generally uninsured and therefore these families spend a disproportionate percentage of their total income on medical costs.
- Supporters cite studies saying that children with health insurance as a group perform better in school.
The official argument against I-155 prepared for the Montana Voter Information Pamphlet was written by State Senator John Esp, State Representative John Sinrud, and State Senator Sam Shockley.
Arguments against I-155
Arguments made by the opponents were:
- In the current economic climate, a large increase in the CHIP program would be fiscally irresponsible.
- The initiative will increase the number of Montanans eligible for the program from 90,000 to 127,000, with family earning as much as $60,000 per year still being eligible.
- Opponents say that "a parent could be a millionaire and his or her child could still receive the benefit if the parent's wages were low enough at the time of application."
- While children are defined in law as people 19 years of age or younger, a waiver can allow people up to 25 years of age to qualify for the initiative's benefits.
According to the National Taxpayers Union, "Initiative No. 155 would offer government-provided health coverage to uninsured children by expanding eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Funding for I-155 will come from a share of the insurance premium tax and federal matching funds, with an estimated cost to the state of $22 million.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer is troubled by the cost of the program and says he won't support a tax increase. Schweitzer has not taken an official position for or against the measure.
Morrison believes the proposal could cost about $20 million annually. Gov. Schweitzer's budget office produced its own fiscal evaluation, estimating the cost at $38.5 million for the next two years and another $45.5 million for the two years after that.
"The initiative increases health insurance for children without providing for additional state taxes," according to the budget office. "Therefore, a significant reduction in general tax revenues for other state services would start December 2008."
But Morrison expects a surplus sufficient to cover the costs, denying that other programs will suffer. "There are no existing programs and no existing funding that will be impaired for the foreseeable future by this initiative," he said.
David Ewer, the governor's budget director, said "My worry is, how do I get it to fit with all of the other things we have to pay for? I don't have a good sense of what the (future) revenue picture is going to be."
- See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures.
|Month of Poll||Pollster||Yes||No||Undecided||Reference|
|Sept 2008||MSU Billings||73 percent||-||-|||
- List of Montana ballot measures
- Procedures for qualifying an initiative in Montana
- Montana Initiative and Referendum Law
- Campaign finance requirements for Montana ballot measures
- Montana 2008 ballot measures
- 2008 ballot measures
- Montana signature requirements
- 2008 Voter Information Pamphlet
- 2008 Election Results - The Montana Secretary of State
- Healthy Montana Kids, website of supporters.
- Support I-155 and 6-mill levy
- Debaters exchange barbs
- Voter Guide Review
- Billings Gazette, "Guest Opinion: Support initiative for state's children's health", October 26, 2008
- Huffington Post, Ballot Initiatives in 2008: Change Vs. More of the Same, June 12, 2008
- MT I-155 initiative backed in Whitefish Montana's News Station, Aug. 26, 2008
- Montana Kids Plan PowerPoint
- Flathead Beacon, "Working the Land, Buried by Medical Costs", September 24, 2008
- Havre Daily News, "Pushing for healthy kids", September 22, 2008
- 2008 Voter Information Pamphlet (PDF) Montana Secretary of State website
- National Taxpayers Union, 2008 Ballot Guide
- "CHIP supporters gathering signatures," March 18, 2008
- Missoulian, Initiative to expand kids' coverage to see changes Dec. 11, 2007
- MSU Billings University Relations, "Schweitzer holds strong lead in gubernatorial race, MSU Billings poll says" October 24, 2008