Colorado’s new Medicaid Director focused on partnering with RAEs to prepare for end of PHE

Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) announced earlier this month the appointment of Adela Flores-Brennan as State Medicaid Director. She also assumed the leadership role for the Health Policy Office (formerly called the Health Programs Office), which develops and oversees Health First Colorado and CHP+ medical policies and contracts. 

 

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Flores-Brennan joined the department in May 2022 and previously served as the Executive Director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. She brings over 20 years of experience in Colorado public policy and advocacy to the new role.

Her appointment comes as the department prepares for the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE), which the Biden administration has signaled will end in January of 2023. The PHE designation allows HCPF to extend continuous coverage, maintenance of effort, and other policies and waivers approved by the federal government. The PHE also provides additional enhanced federal funding that HCPF says has been critical during the economic downturn.

Flores-Brennan says she is focused on mitigating the loss of coverage for members resulting from the end of PHE extended coverage and starting  Medicaid redeterminations.

“It’s going to be really important to partner with our marketplace and other partners like the RAEs [Regional Accountable Entities] to make sure that we have a good landing place for people who are no longer eligible and that we’re doing the best that we can to do our renewals in a timely way so that people can remain covered,” Flores-Brennan said.

Other key priorities for Flores-Brennan are improving vaccination rates for children and BIPOC communities, addressing maternal health equity, and working to ensure equity in behavioral health. 

“We have a lot of health equity priorities moving forward,” she said. “[We are focused on] really working to advance health equity by implementing programs to support health for our members [and] eliminating avoidable differences.”

This month, HCPF created a new Office of Medicaid and CHP+ Behavioral Health Initiatives and Coverage, which will govern behavioral health strategies and projects. Flores-Brennan said she will be working closely with the office’s new Director, Cristen Bates, to support the efforts of the Behavioral Health Administration in transforming the behavioral health system.

She said she looks to leverage her advocacy work in community-based organizations to improve Medicaid access and services, and is excited to engage stakeholders on the work ahead. 

“I really want to take some time to do some thoughtful and intentional engagement with our stakeholders,” Flores-Brennan said. “Especially those with lived experiences. And in doing that, to be responsive to their needs and issues that they’re raising. So I’m hoping that as soon as I can come up for air, I can get out in front of our various stakeholder communities and start meeting with folks … Recognizing that of course, we can’t have that quality of care and access to care without key partnerships with our providers and our MCOs.”