Adoptive parents in Colorado could soon have access to non-Medicaid health services for their children

House Bill 21-1018, unanimously approved by the Colorado House Health and Insurance Committee Tuesday, would broaden the variety of health services available to adopted children in the state. Under this bill, parents of adopted children would no longer be restricted to only utilizing Medicaid-covered services for their children, granting them access to critical services such as mental health counseling.



Under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, adopted children are automatically eligible for Medicaid coverage. The sponsors of HB 21-1018 explained, however, that since adoptive parents are now restricted to using only Medicaid-covered services, they are prevented from providing their child with needed out-of-network services.

Representative Tracy Burnett, one of the prime sponsors, explained that some Medicaid providers do not offer certain crucial specialized services. In addition, distance between these patients and a Medicaid provider often makes it difficult for patients to reach covered services.

“Many of these children have suffered significant trauma — physical, mental, sexual abuse and neglect. They often need specialized care, especially mental health services, and these services are not always provided through a Medicaid provider.”

Prior to the passage of HB 19-1174 in 2019, adoptive parents were able to pay for non-Medicaid services on behalf of their children. Bernett describes HB 19-1174 as a “good bill” with “unintended consequences” — these being the criminal penalties that were created to disincentivize Medicaid providers from accepting private payments for medical services. As a result of this bill, Medicaid providers now face a fine if they accept private payments.

Deborah Cave, executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Adoptive Families, testified in support of the bill:

“Medicaid is greatly beneficial in helping to cover the costs of therapies our children need … However, there are times when a Medicaid provider may not be a viable option. For example, sometimes a provider is not located close enough to make round trips feasible for the family, many times the family members or the two parents work, the children are in school full-time … Also, sometimes the needs of our children are too great to be met by anyone other than a specialist in the areas of adoption, loss and trauma.”

Bernett’s bill also includes an amendment that specifies parents who choose to pay for non-Medicaid services will not be reimbursed through adoption assistance.