5 Things Colorado: Rep. Emily Sirota, Medicaid wave?, Convening Panel

Originally appeared in the State of Reform

By: DJ Wilson

We are about to start getting our band back together…! Meaning, it’ll soon be time to pull together our Convening Panel ahead of our 2020 Colorado State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference! The conference, held each year in October, will be a chance to reconnect with senior market executives and health policy leaders, yet will do so in the safety of a virtual setting.

If you have suggestions on topics for this year’s Convening Panel, or if you’d like to participate in the process, I’d welcome hearing from you. We can get you in the mix!

1. Q&A: Rep. Emily Sirota on health care and tax reform

Rep. Emily Sirota represents District 9 in the Colorado House. This past session, she was a prime sponsor of HB 1420, legislation which, while pared back in the Senate before passing, will generate $113 million in public education funding for the next fiscal year. On the health policy front, Sirota has been engaged in the effort to move Colorado to a universal health care system.

In addition to supporting Colorado’s Public Option bill in the Legislature, Sirota passed legislation that created a task force to analyze different health care financing systems. Reporter Michael Goldberg spoke with Rep. Sirota to hear her main takeaways from the legislative session, the campaign waged against the Public Option bill, and why universal coverage models are popular.

2.  Where is the wave of Medicaid beneficiaries?

With the economy contracting, it’s reasonable to expect a wave of Medicaid enrollees. HCPF is reportedly expecting an increase of nearly 50% by the end of the year. That would mean an increase from 1.2m beneficiaries in February to 1.8m by December, or close to 1 in 3 Coloradans.

Since mid-March, 493,571 regular unemployment claims have been filed, increasing the unemployment rate to 10.2% in May from 2.5% in February,. This is more than a four-fold increase. However, Medicaid beneficiaries have only increased by 83,996 from February to June. This is only an uptick of 7%, but a better statistic is that it’s only 17% of the unemployment claims filed.

3. Mental health legislative report

Nonprofit mental health advocate, Mental Health Colorado, has released its 2020 legislative report highlighting mental health legislation that made it across the finish line this past session. The report lists mental health related bills that passed across seven different issue areas, from early childhood health to housing access to decriminalizing mental health.

HB 1411 allocates $15.2 million to prepare for the “secondary pandemic” of exacerbated mental health and substance abuse disorders. HB 1053 is designed to support the early childhood workforce by allowing Early Childhood Mental Health consultants to expand into new locations such as pediatric health care officers and work with child welfare caseworkers. SB 181 aims to decriminalize mental health by improving the incompetent to proceed process for individuals caught up in the criminal justice system.

4. The state of contact tracing and testing

Major commercial lab Quest Diagnostics announced earlier this week that the average turnaround time for getting test results back is now seven days, compared with two or three days in early June. While Colorado public health officials say they are keeping up with contact tracing so far, longer turnaround times for tests at commercial labs, brought about by rising consumer demand, could trickle down to in-state labs and inhibit contact tracing.

A Colorado School of Public Health analysis published last month estimated that Colorado will need to add between 1,000 and 1,600 members to its contact tracing workforce in order to meet the rising demand. But, that’s a task more easily said than done. Jim Capretta of the American Enterprise institute writes in his column for State of Reform that the standard is 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents, or 1,740 or Colorado. Yet, only New York and Massachusetts are meeting that threshold. In mid-May, Colorado had 300 tracers at work in the state.

5. Summer & fall legislative meetings to watch

If you’re not taking that needed road trip to get away this summer, keep an eye out for new program evaluation reports that may be released or recommended in the bipartisan Legislative Audit Committee, which has meetings scheduled on July 27th and 28th.

The Joint Budget Committee will conduct a meeting with the Executive Committee for a presentation by the Office of State Planning and Budgeting regarding the status of the current disaster emergency response. A subsequent Joint Budget Committee meeting will take place on September 18th. For those looking way ahead, the deadline schedule for the 2021 general session is available.