Greg Brophy Suggests Cutting Medicaid Spending, Says Recipients 'More Likely To Smoke Cigarettes'

03/03/2011 01:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

State Senator Greg Brophy shed some light Wednesday on the Colorado Republican Party's thinking regarding the state's budget.

The Senator from Wray, Colorado told Rosen that he believed that the legislature will ultimately pass a budget that cuts roughly half the amount from K-12 education than the $375 million proposed by Governor Hickenlooper in February.

Brophy said that the state could look to secure more money for K-12 education if it cuts Medicaid spending by increasing co-pays and premiums.

"We have grown the number of people who are getting free health care in Colorado," Brophy explained.

"We're up to 550,00 kids who are on Medicaid or SCHIP in Colorado, and they pay effectively nothing... I don't think that's right," he added.

Any plan to increase co-pays or premiums for Medicaid would have to be approved by the federal government, since states agreed not to raise rates when they accepted federal Recovery Act money to help with Medicaid payments in 2009.

Nonetheless, a number of states---including Arizona, New York and Illinois--are looking to trim the amount they spend on the program in the face of mounting budget pressures, and a growth in the Medicaid rolls as a result of high unemployment.

Rosen followed up by asking whether cuts to Medicaid mean that poor kids will go untreated.

Brophy responded:

Well, that's what the opponents of charging people will say, but I think when you look at it what we're doing as a matter of public policy is we are allowing people who have their kids on Medicaid to spend their money on other things. For instance, the average Medicaid recipient is four times more likely to smoke than the average Coloradoan. So we're paying for their kids' health care, and they're buying cigarettes instead. And I think if you look at the statistics, you'll see that they are also much more likely to play the lottery. So instead of paying for their kids' health care, they are playing in the lottery and buying cigarettes. Oh, and by the way, most of them have air conditioning. So instead of paying for their kids' health care, they are paying for their air conditioning bills, and it goes on and on and on. I think they should put a little bit of skin in the game.

Democrats responded almost immediately to Brophy's statement. In a tweet Wednesday, former Democratic Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll called his comments "exceptionally condescending."

"It seeks to dehumanize those who live poverty for an activity that those same studies show is a miguided attempt to reduce stress," Carroll elaborated to KDVR.

Brophy stood by his comments on Thursday, reiterating to KDVR Medicaid recipients "should have a little more of a skin in the game."

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