The beginning of May each year has some folks celebrating the arrival of spring and the transition away from wintry weather. But for me—and many of us here at Center for Health Progress—I celebrate the end of the Colorado state legislative session, take stock of our accomplishments, and reflect on new opportunities.
As I look back on the 2018 legislative session, two big successes stand out to me. First, we were able to move forward parts of our policy change agenda forward despite some challenging opposition, and we celebrate our victories on a couple of bills in particular:
SB 108 will improve the driver’s license program for immigrant Coloradans without documentation. This bill will allow our neighbors to renew their licenses at any Department of Motor Vehicles office or online, like standard driver’s licenses, and will also fix a problem with the original 2013 state law regarding who is eligible, increasing access to some Coloradans who were accidentally excluded from the program. We engaged in this issue because transportation is a critical social determinant of health, and because when public transportation isn’t always reliable or accessible, eliminating barriers to personal transportation is key. We know that access to driver’s licenses also means an increase in car insurance. Studies show fatal car accidents decrease when more people have driver’s licenses, and when there is an accident, fewer uninsured motorists means lower medical expenses and out-of-pocket costs. This bill is a win-win for us all, and we are so excited to have worked alongside Colorado’s incredible immigrant rights leaders to support its passage!
SB 214 would have required Health First Colorado, our Medicaid program, to add requirements that enrollees needed to be working, seeking work, in job training, or volunteering in order to qualify for benefits. We opposed this bill because while the majority of enrollees are already employed, Medicaid helps many Coloradans who can’t work because of a chronic condition, disability, or other reasons. Medicaid is an important tool in maintaining good health outcomes and healthy lifestyles for Coloradans. We testified against this dangerous bill and were glad to see that many lawmakers agreed with our perspective. It died in its first committee with bipartisan opposition.
Secondly, we were able to work with legislators across different content areas, moving beyond just those focused on health care issues. Health policy is much broader than legislation related to health care, because so much outside of the care we get at a hospital or clinic affects our health in big ways. However, legislative policymaking often gets compartmentalized into issue areas, and for years, we had only interacted with legislators on the health committees. This year, we had the opportunity to speak with lawmakers in many committees, from local government to transportation, and spell out the connections that their legislative issues had to health equity. We were excited to create new relationships and connections, and legislators expressed their appreciation for learning about the health impacts of these issues.
Each legislative session always comes with a few steps forward, a few disappointments, and moments of drama—and we had all of that and more this year. We’re already looking forward to the 2019 session and getting closer to our vision of a health care system that works for all Coloradans. After I take a few breaths, I’m going to dive back into the work!