Legislative Update: Feb. 10, 2017
Medicaid issues warrant notice
Three bills that were recommended and developed by CCLP and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) will be considered by Colorado legislators next week. House Bills 1126 and 1143 are scheduled to be heard by the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee, Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m. at the State Capitol. A related measure, Senate Bill 121, is slated to be reviewed by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee’s on Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m.
The bills, which received bipartisan sponsorship, are intended to address shortcomings in client correspondence and notifications when Medicaid benefits are about to be changed or terminated. An interim committee held three hearings about Medicaid correspondence last summer, which included testimony from CCLP, CCDC, and the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
Currently, Medicaid recipients are supposed to receive notice with information about how to appeal changes or termination of their benefits if they believe the action is unjustified. In practice, however, these notices are often vague and confusing. Most do not specify why benefits are being terminated or reduced, so Medicaid clients don’t always know whether they should challenge the decision. Furthermore, without proper notice, those who appeal may be unable to fully prepare their case.
Sponsored by Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, HB 1126 would ensure that an administrative law judge reviews the sufficiency of Medicaid termination notices at the beginning of an appeal hearing. The bill also requires the judge to inform the client of his or her option to receive an improved notice with the possibility of maintaining benefits, or proceed with their hearing.
Sponsored by Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, and Sen. Crowder, HB 1143 would direct the state to audit communications with Medicaid clients. These audits would review the notices for legal sufficiency, clarity and accuracy. Audit findings, conclusions and recommendations will be presented to legislative committees, which can then consider whether the results warrant further reforms.
Finally, SB 121, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud and Sen. Crowder, requires the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to engage in a process to improve Medicaid client communications – including client letters and notices – that addresses denial, reduction, suspension, or termination of Medicaid benefits.
Collectively, these proposals will help ensure that Medicaid clients do not lose access to health care due to the shortcomings in the current notification process.
Bill to Watch: SB 4
At first glance, Senate Bill 4 looks like a reasonable solution for Medicaid recipients who have problems accessing specialty health care services. Sponsored by Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, the measure would allow non-Medicaid-enrolled health care providers to bill Medicaid patients directly for services. Unfortunately, that means that those who can least afford it will be on the hook for medical fees and – because of federal rules – for the cost of all referrals, orders or prescriptions that come out of visiting a non-Medicaid-enrolled provider.
Despite its intentions, we believe the legislation would result in decreased, not increased, access for Medicaid patients. By making it easier for providers to bypass Medicaid and treat patients from their community for cash, this bill would incentivize some providers to leave the Medicaid program, while shifting significant costs onto individuals. Losing even one Medicaid doctor in rural areas could be a disaster for patients. Worse, the legislation puts low-income families at a high risk of medical debt, with related risks of aggressive debt-collection practices, growing interest on debt, wage garnishment and medical bankruptcy.
Regardless of these serious concerns and opposition from CCLP and other advocacy organizations, the bill was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Feb. 9. CCLP will continue to oppose the bill as it moves through the legislature.
On the Radar: SB 110
Finding quality, affordable child care remains one of the more daunting challenges for Colorado parents across the economic spectrum.
CCLP’s ‘Manic Monday’
Two bills developed by CCLP will be considered by the Senate State Veterans & Military Affairs Committee on Monday, Feb. 13.
Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, would require private occupational schools to provide information about educational outcomes (such as completion rates, total costs, estimated debt load and average starting salaries), before students sign a contract. The legislation also calls for the state to develop a website to help students make informed decisions when investing in a secondary education. Learn more about the legislation in this analysis by CCLP’s Chaer Robert.
Senate Bill 98, sponsored by Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, and Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, attempts to promote and incentivize the conversion of land-lease manufactured housing communities into resident-owned communities. Details about the bill can be found in this posting by CCLP’s Kristopher Grant.