Reproductive health care finds itself of some importance this year in the Colorado legislature, with bills that would make it easier to get contraceptives, abortions and prevention for sexually transmitted infections.
With Democrats in control of both chambers, the bills have a decent shot at passing, though lawmakers will have to weigh costs of bills during a session focused on economic recovery and stimulus post-COVID.
Republicans, meanwhile, tried again to ban abortions and also introduced a measure to track women’s personal information in a public database if they get an abortion. Both of those bills failed.
Here are some of the Democratic proposals introduced, all of which have passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Getting birth control through Medicaid
This bill would create a statewide health care program that would allow Medicaid patients to get a year’s supply of birth control like people can do through private insurers. It would also expand this to immigrants living in the country without legal permission who, if they were residents or on visas, would have been eligible for Medicaid.
Most Medicaid patients can get a one-month supply at a time, sometimes three, said Democratic bill sponsor Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, who added it would be paid for through cost-sharing.
Although the bill carries a $4.1 million price tag for the first year, the Longmont Democrat said it will ultimately save the state more money and is similar to what California and Washington, D.C., have done.
The cost was a red flag for Republican Sen. Jim Smallwood of Parker, who voted against it.
“Like so many of these health care bills we see the other side bring, they come with a promise of lower costs potentially down the road but without any actuarial data to support that claim,” he said.
Abortion coverage through Medicaid for cases of rape or incest
Neither the federal Hyde Amendment nor Colorado law allow public money to be used for abortions except when a mother’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest. Colorado law also restricts where these abortions can take place — specific clinics and only by a physician.
Democrats are looking to open up where the services can be done, because patients often have to drive long distances before they can find an eligible physician or facility. The bill would also expand the types of providers who could provide abortion services, like nurse practitioners or physician assistants who are licensed by the state and trained in abortion procedures.
“I don’t think people realize that (some people) in Colorado have to drive seven hours over a mountain range with suitcases to access health care that they need,” Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains spokesperson Jack Teter said.
Dr. Kristina Tocce, vice president and medical director of the Planned Parenthood branch, said Medicaid patients and even people from the public health department and other agencies may not realize the specifics and will often refer patients to Planned Parenthood.
Smallwood also voted against this bill because he believes it’s too broad and doesn’t put enough parameters on who can perform abortion services in the cases of rape and incest.
Preventive health care coverage
This bill that would require insurers to cover some preventive care and treatment has been getting the attention of anti-vaccine activists like Colorado Health Choice Alliance, because they claim it allows minors to consent to the HPV and hepatitis B vaccines without consent.
But backers of the bill say this isn’t a vaccine bill, and instead would put into state law measures that are already covered by the Affordable Care Act like obesity or alcohol screenings, as well as add additional services they believe should be covered like smoking cessation programs and sexually transmitted infection screenings and treatment.
Teter said Colorado law already allows minors to be treated for STIs and this wouldn’t override federal law on parental notifications for vaccines. The bill would still require permission for minors 13 and under and counseling to involve parents for care of STIs.
Rep. Kyle Mullica, a Northglenn Democrat and bill sponsor, said the proposal also looks to provide early prevention measures for a variety of health issues, in turn saving the state money.
But there’s disagreement among Republicans about funding and whether any treatment should be included in the bill aimed at preventive care. If passed, it’s estimated that it’ll cost almost $919,000 in its first year.
Other bills related to reproductive health care are making their way through the legislature, including covering family planning services for low-income households before pregnancy and reimbursement for maternal health care.
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