Colorado Legislature considers bill to expand complementary at-home services to disabled Coloradans

A bill to demographically and geographically expand Colorado’s “phenomenal” complementary and alternative medicine program for disabled individuals is moving through the state Legislature. The Senate House Health and Human Services Committee gave the bill a unanimous do-pass recommendation on Monday, sending it to the Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

 

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Senate Bill 21-038 builds off of Colorado’s program that provides complementary medical services to individuals in the Denver metro area with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) and who are unable to transport themselves to the hospital. This program created a Medicaid waiver that provides these individuals with at-home services such as acupuncture, massage therapy and chiropractic services. The sponsors of this bill hope to render the program accessible to additional disabled Coloradans.

Senator Rachel Zenzinger, one of the bill’s prime sponsors, advocated for the expansion of the program in committee:

“Today, we are presenting you with a bill that will expand this very successful program and allow individuals with a condition in which they are no longer independently ambulatory an opportunity to also take advantage of this phenomenal program.”

The bill would expand eligible individuals to include those with multiple sclerosis, a brain injury, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. Zenzinger clarified that eligible individuals must prove their diagnosis of one of these conditions and that it has resulted in a loss of their ability to independently ambulate.

It would also widen the program to include any eligible Coloradan, rather than only those in the Denver metropolitan area. Zenzinger explained:

“There’s a lack of access, geographically and demographically, that puts additional individuals with spinal cord injuries or other long-term disabilities at a disadvantage.”

Zenzinger said that an independent evaluator from the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) revealed that the waiver resulted in cost savings, increased quality of life and improved health outcomes. According to Zenzinger, the evaluator reported immense satisfaction with the waiver among the program’s participants.

The bill’s other prime sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Jim Smallwood, said:

“In short, [the data from HCPF’s evaluation] says if you allow people to use these alternative services — chiropractic care, acupuncture care, massage therapy — the hypothesis is that you will see a reduced spend, particularly in in-patient costs and pharmaceutical costs.”