CO House Democrats Press Release, December 11, 2017
53 Democratic members of the Colorado General Assembly sent a letter to Senator Cory Gardner urging him and his colleagues to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Republican-controlled Congress failed to reauthorize the vital CHIP program before funding expired this past September, putting nearly 9 million children across the country at risk of losing health care.
“75,761 Colorado children and expectant mothers depend on the program for health insurance. It is unacceptable that despite broad bipartisan support for reauthorizing this critical program, it has languished for months in the Senate,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Senator Gardner, you have said that you support reauthorization of the program, and co-sponsored bipartisan legislation with Senator Bennet to reauthorize CHIP,” the letter continued. “That support is hollow if you and your Republican colleagues do nothing to advance the legislation. As an influential member of Senate leadership, our expectation is that you would zealously advocate for Colorado’s priorities to become the US Senate’s priorities.”
“Instead of passing tax breaks for corporations and the ultra-wealthy, Congress should be working to provide relief and security to the thousands of Colorado children and hardworking families who depend on the vital CHIP program,” said Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver). “There’s no more time to waste. Congress has to prioritize CHIP now.”
“Senator Gardner just voted for a GOP tax bill that adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit in order to cut taxes for the 1% and corporations — that’s enough money to extend CHIP for the next 937 years,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D-Denver). “There is absolutely no excuse for anything less than a full-throated defense of the CHIP program. The health of tens of thousands of Colorado children depends on it.”
CO House Democrats Press Release, October 31, 2017
The legislative Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee voted today to move forward with a six-bill package of legislation that seeks to prevent opioid addictions, intervene early when possible and make sure people seeking help are able to get the help they need.
Today’s votes, with strong bipartisan support, put the six bills into the pipeline for consideration during the 2018 legislative session. Included are bills to:
Create training programs for health professionals, law enforcement, and at-risk communities for safe opioid prescribing, medication assisted treatment, and overdose prevention.
Limit most opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply for acute conditions and mandate that medical professionals check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database before writing prescription refills.
Create a pilot project for a supervised injection facility in Denver. Like needle-exchange programs, data show that SIFs do not increase the use of illicit drugs, but do reduce the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C while increasing referrals to medical and/or substance abuse treatment.
Expand the Colorado Health Service Corps program, which includes loan repayment and scholarship programs for medical professionals who commit to working in underserved areas where substance abuse is more likely to go untreated.
Significantly increasing access to residential treatment to qualifying individuals with substance use disorders.
Improve “prior authorization” standards to ensure that insurance companies and Medicaid give timely approval for medication-assisted treatment so patients with substance use disorders don’t go back to opioids while waiting for approval to begin their treatment. The bill also makes sure pharmacists are able to administer certain kinds of medication-assisted treatments and reduces copays for physical therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic alternatives to narcotics.
Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, the interim committee’s chairwoman, noted the five committee hearings, three task force meetings and numerous stakeholder meetings that produced bipartisan consensus around the six bills.
“All of us know somebody affected by addiction; I had no idea how broken our system was until my mom was begging for help and there were no options available for her,” said Rep. Pettersen. “I am incredibly proud of the bipartisan work we have done through this interim committee to lay a foundation for addressing this epidemic, and to close the gaps faced by people who are trying to move toward recovery.”
“We are making meaningful steps forward to prevent opioid addiction and facilitate access to treatment,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, who also sits on the interim committee. “But this is just the beginning, and we’ll continue working hard on this issue for many years.”
“I’m proud of how Democrats and Republicans put politics and personalities aside to do the right thing for everyday Coloradans struggling with addiction,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, who also sits on the interim committee.
A group of Colorado lawmakers are working to lower health insurance premiums for residents on the individual market created in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. Rates are predicted to rise 34 percent on average next year. There are concerns that healthy people will opt out of coverage and that could cause rates to rise even higher as the insurance risk pool thins out…
At the state level, both Democrats and Republicans are discussing a proposal that would reimburse insurance companies for high-cost patients. They hope it will help lower premiums for everyone and free up more federal money for the state. Democratic Rep. Chris Kennedy of Lakewood may sponsor the legislation, but said it’s still being fleshed out.
“If we don’t figure out how to pay for it, it may or may not be worthwhile, Kennedy said. “I think we’re still investigating that question of, do we have the money? Is this kind of program worth the savings we could achieve?”
Recent news out of suburban Denver has been decidedly anti-growth. First it was Greenwood Village voters shunning compact, walkable development that would have allowed more people to live near the Orchard RTD station. This week, in a disturbing development in Jefferson County, elected officials nearly turned down $1.7 million in federal funds for affordable housing and sidewalks because of a perceived “war on the suburbs.”
After a six-hour debate Tuesday over whether Jeffco should take money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for sidewalks, up to 500 new housing units, and more affordable homes for low-income residents and people of color, commissioners grudgingly accepted — with caveats, lest the county get too diverse and accepting of new people…
“It makes sense that we’re having a robust debate about growth in Jeffco, but it’s crazy that anyone would want to decline the HUD funding,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, who represents Jefferson County in the General Assembly. “Our local governments depend on these funds to meet the affordable housing needs of their residents. In many parts of Jeffco, these funds have been used to plan smart growth and concentrate more units near transit or commercial areas so that we limit the number of new cars on our roads.”
The summer solstice is apparently scorecard day for some of Colorado’s leading progressive organizations, and I’m honored to have earned a 100% score from these three:
Conservation Colorado – The Colorado Legislative Conservation Scorecard highlights the priorities of the conservation community for the 2017 legislative session. Here, you will find factual, nonpartisan information on bills related to our environment and how each member of the state legislature voted on issues that affect Colorado’s air, land, water, and people.
NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado – Every year in Colorado there are dozens of bills introduced that impact reproductive health, rights and justice in Colorado. See NARAL’s scorecard here.
OneColorado – OneColorado’s Legislative Scorecard highlights the priorities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families in the 2017 legislative session. In this scorecard, you will find accurate, nonpartisan information on bills related to LGBTQ equality and how each member of the legislature voted on issues that affect Colorado’s LGBTQ community.
On May 2, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 203 (SB 203) into law! This important bill stops insurance plans from requiring patients to go through step therapy for their medication if they previously went through step therapy protocols with their current or former insurer.
Step therapy, or ‘fail first,’ requires patients to try and fail a series of medications, typically cheaper drugs, before the insurance plan will cover the medication their health care provider originally prescribed. The bill increases access to care for arthritis patients by limiting step therapy practices in Colorado. Specifically, an insurer will not be allowed to require patients to go through step therapy if they already completed step therapy for the same drug, either with their current or former insurance provider…
We would like to thank Senator Nancy Todd, Representative Chris Kennedy and Representative Phil Covarrubias for their leadership in sponsoring the bill. The sponsors and their staff worked with stakeholders from the very start to ensure that step therapy protocols would be addressed by the Colorado legislature in 2017.
Just before Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law one of the most talked about bills of the 2017 legislative session, Senator John Kefalas, (D-Fort Collins) joked about the ups and downs of getting Senate Bill 17-040, known as Public Access to Government Files, through both chambers of the General Assembly…
Although supporters say there is still a long way to go with Colorado’s open records laws, the bill makes it easier for those seeking access to spreadsheets and other manipulatable data to obtain that data in its original format…
“The goal was to get it out of the Senate in a reasonable form,” Kefalas said. “They would have a lot of leverage in the House to take out the stuff that didn’t need to be in there and to add provisions that would strengthen the bill.”
That wasn’t quite as easy as first thought it would be, however. The bill’s House sponsor, Dan Pabon, (D- Denver) enlisted the help of freshman legislators Chris Kennedy, (D-Jefferson County) and Mike Weissman, (D-Arapahoe County) to strike a balance that would make the most stakeholders happy – or at least get them moving in the same direction.
Kennedy said he heard it the first time in the House Finance Committee, and it was clear there were a lot of issues that were going to make it hard to get it past his colleagues, so he asked Pabon what he could do to help.
…Hansen and Kennedy, in turn, say they didn’t set out to vote ‘yes’ on every bill but, because of their own approach all session long, they wound up with bills they could get behind by the time they made it to final votes.
“We tried to work really hard in committees to improve bills before they got to the floor, so by the time we were here on third readings, we would have had a chance to amend pre-introduction, a chance to amend in committee — perhaps two committees — and make second-reading amendments,” Hansen says. “So, we tried to really put in a lot of work at the early part of the process so, by the time we got to thirds, we had something we could support.”