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Opinion: The Colorado Option health insurance bill would harm state’s most vulnerable citizens

It is already difficult to find available appointments for Medicaid patients, and access would get worse, especially for those in need of mental health services.

We all want to save a buck or two in our household budgets. It’s why I clip coupons, buy second hand and search for deals wherever I can to balance a family budget that includes adopting three children who have challenges including early-onset childhood schizophrenia, autism and developmental disabilities.

While I appreciate the sentiment of the Colorado General Assembly, House Bill 1232, titled “Standardized Health Benefit Plan Colorado Option,” will not help Coloradans. In its efforts to mandate lower costs, the bill would reduce access to health care and place our state’s most vulnerable citizens – children like mine and thousands of others who depend on Medicaid – at risk.

Monique McCollum

HB 1232 proposes steep reimbursement reductions as part of government rate setting. If it passes, I believe hospitals and clinics will have less capacity to accept patients with Medicaid, especially for those in need of mental health services. 

It is already difficult to find available appointments for Medicaid patients, and this access would get worse. It’s simply not possible to cut provider reimbursements by up to 50% without reducing access for low-income and uninsured patients.

My children just can’t go to just any pediatrician. Though there are many fine doctors in our state, most are not used to working with children with so many diagnoses. My children need specialists, providers whose skills in behavioral health are in high demand.

The proposed rate structure does not recognize quality or those providers who specialize in treating the sickest or most critically injured patients.

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Mental and behavioral health resources are scarce now. If this bill passes, I fear that even more services are at risk of being cut, and that scheduling appointments for my kids as they age out of pediatric care and finding specialists willing to see them will become far more difficult.

My children and others who are covered by Medicaid for their mental health needs will be some of the first ones to feel the full impact of the negative consequences of this well-intended but poorly-thought-out bill.

Hospitals, physicians and health insurance companies have made progress in recent years, increasing access to care, improving quality, and reducing prices. Some health systems have expanded their behavioral health programs, even though I know they don’t get paid the full cost of providing this service. 

We must continue and expand upon these improvements. HB 1232 is not the answer. This bill will bring significant unintended consequences and harm our state’s high-quality health care system.

I urge everyone to look closely at HB 1232 and legislators’ promises of lower rates.

The bill should be rejected or substantially amended to protect our providers, our hospitals, and, most importantly, patients like my children. 

The future of Colorado’s health care – and the health of my children – is at risk.


Monique McCollum is a health literacy manager at UCHealth and a mom.


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