Colorado Expands Kids Coverage Despite Budget Crunch – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

On Monday, Liz Arjun blogged about the fact that CHIPRA has encouraged many states to move forward on health coverage for children despite challenging budgetary climates.  Colorado is one of those states. The All Kids Covered initiative, a statewide collaborative, worked for passage of the legislation that was signed into law by Governor Ritter on April 21.  We asked Deb Colburn, a member of the All Kids Covered leadership team, to give us a behind the scenes look at what happened in Colorado.  
I have been engaged in politics for 17 years.  As a state legislator serving New Hampshire, there were few issues as near and dear to me than meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people in our state.  Now in Colorado, I serve as an advocate for kids and their families who are most in need.  
Unlike most other states, Colorado’s budget is constitutionally constrained from growing.  Our legislators work with limited dollars and often must make difficult decisions. It is heartbreaking to watch our elected officials painstakingly decide if seniors beat out kids, or if education trumps social services.
Yet, I can tell you this limited pool of funds has not divided those fighting the good fight in our Mile High state.  Through the Governor’s leadership and the willingness of the Colorado Hospital Association, House Bill 1293 creates a mechanism to draw down federal funds to improve Medicaid reimbursement rates to hospitals, implement continuous eligibility for kids on Medicaid and expand eligibility in our public programs to cover more kids and adults.  
How did this happen?  All Kids Covered kept its agenda before the legislature, the Governor’s office and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing by: including them in our monthly initiative meetings, holding meetings with key champions and individual meetings with members of our policy team.  We demonstrated our commitment and strength by operating as a coalition.  
When it came time to testify at legislative hearings, All Kids Covered was called upon by the Governor’s office to represent the interests of children.  And after the bill passed, we were again called upon to bring the perspective of families to the bill signing ceremony. We were pleased to have Anna Sierra, a mother of three whose children now have health coverage through Colorado’s public programs, speak about the economic downturn closing their family business- and how she has peace of mind knowing her children can get the health care they need. 
Despite hard economic times, Colorado managed to find a way to help more people.  We are proud to have been a part of that.
The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Children and Families.

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