Colorado recognized for leadership on kids health coverage


By Tara Mantley

Special to The SUN

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that Colorado will receive a $43M bonus payment in recognition of its leadership role in getting more children covered by health insurance in 2012.

Since 2010, Colorado has received $94 million in performance bonuses for implementing sound public policies that ensure public health care programs work better for families and taxpayers.

“Getting kids covered — and keeping them covered — means healthier kids and families and helps our state spend scarce health dollars wisely,” said Gretchen Hammer, executive director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved and leader of All Kids Covered. “Bipartisan leadership in Colorado has helped cut red tape to make Medicaid and CHP-plus work more efficiently and effectively.”

Colorado was recognized for implementing seven out of eight measures to qualify for the bonus, such as “administrative renewal,” which allows the state to verify continued eligibility electronically. Colorado was also praised for starting “express lane enrollment,” in which children are enrolled based on their applications for free and reduced lunch programs in public schools. These common sense changes make it easier for kids and families to get the coverage they need to stay healthy and grow up strong.

Colorado has also made important investments in kids’ coverage during the past five years that are paying off. The Colorado Health Care Affordability Act (hospital provider fee, HB09-1293) passed in 2009 has allowed the state to expand eligibility in CHP-plus for kids and pregnant women in families earning up to 250 percent of the poverty level, which is an income level of approximately $55,000 per year for a family of four.

Taken together, these investments and efficiency measures have made a measurable impact: data shows that between 2008 and 2010 more than 40,000 children in Colorado have gained insurance.

“We have made a meaningful difference in the lives of these kids thanks to the leadership of governors Ritter and Hickenlooper, Republican and Democrat legislators, county workers and community organizations that enroll eligible families in CHP-plus and Medicaid and health care providers who serve these children,” said Hammer. “This progress should be celebrated.”

However, state and national research surveys estimate that between 8.2 percent and 10.1 percent of children remain uninsured — meaning that about 120,000 Colorado kids still don’t have coverage.

“It’s not too much to ask that all Colorado kids have access to the health care they need, when they need it,” said Chris Watney, president and CEO, Colorado Children’s Campaign and an All Kids Covered leader. “These programs are as important as ever, especially given the continuing challenges posed by the economy. We will continue to count on policymakers at the Capitol and within the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to make CHP-plus and Medicaid a priority and give families the peace of mind that comes with meaningful health coverage.”