5 Things Colorado: LGBTQ+ behavioral health, Legislators recap session, Inflation’s impact on Colorado Option


Eli Kirshbaum


Happy Pride! Our June newsletter includes a valuable conversation with an LGBTQ+ advocacy leader who outlines ways to improve the community’s at-risk behavioral health.

We also feature important takeaways from the legislative session from key lawmakers, some recent conversations regarding inflation’s impact on the Colorado Option, and more.

Thanks for reading!

Eli Kirshbaum 
State of Reform


1. Q&A: LGBTQ+ advocacy leader discusses how to improve queer behavioral health

A recent statewide survey on the behavioral health and SDOH of over 600 LGBTQ+ Coloradans revealed that these individuals have much higher health risks than heterosexual Coloradans. The first-of-its-kind report shows that Colorado’s LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and 4 times as likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth in the state.

In this Q&A, Steven Haden, CEO and Co-founder of Envision:You, outlined several ways its working to improve BH outcomes for LGBTQ+ Coloradans, including its Finding Hope and How to Have the Talk programs. He also highlighted recently signed bills that will help the state address the issue including HB 1297, which funds LGBTQ+ awareness training for providers, SB 181, which requires the state to implement BH job internships, and HB 1157, which requires CDPHE to collect voluntary data on sexual orientation and gender identity.


2. Lawmakers share key takeaways from session

At the end of the legislative session, State of Reform Reporter Boram Kim spoke with several health policy-attuned legislators to hear their most important takeaways from the session. Common themes to come out of the session include improved policy for older Coloradans and big strides in behavioral health care.

Rep. Mary Bradfield lauded the passage of a bill to modernize the Older Coloradans Act, saying: “We do have a significant number of older people who have no savings and their only income is Social Security, and that certainly doesn’t give you a comfortable lifestyle.” Rep. Naquetta Ricks said the passage of her legislation to allocate $90 million to CBOs for improving mental health support services will enhance cultural competency in BH care. Read legislators’ full comments here.


3. Inflation’s threat to Colorado Option

A report from the Common Sense Institute last month indicates that rising inflation levels could jeopardize health plans’ requirement to lower premiums to a certain threshold under the Colorado Option. Starting in 2023, commercial carriers are required to offer a state-designed standardized plan, with premiums required to be 5% lower than the carrier’s average 2021 premium rate.

Longtime opponents of the Colorado Option, including CHA and CAHP, recently wrote a letter to DOI arguing that inflation will impede the market’s ability to meet premium targets, citing the CSI report. In response to these claims, DOI told State of Reform that it’s planning to adjust premium targets based off of its calculations of medical inflation—which differ from the data in CSI’s report.


4. Youth mental health continues to decline

According to Children’s Hospital Colorado, the mental health of children in the state has worsened since the facility declared a youth mental health state of emergency 1 year ago. The facility says only 22% of Colorado youth receive the mental health care they need. Its behavioral health emergency department saw a 103% increase in patients from 2019-2022.

“With numbers from the first quarter of the year higher than we have ever seen before, we feel compelled to reach out to the community for help in combating the crisis, and to provide resources for families as they wait for solutions to take effect,” said Ron-Li Liaw, MD, Mental Health-in-Chief for Children’s Hospital Colorado. The facility recommends that concerned stakeholders help by joining the Child Health Champs advocacy network, reaching out to their US representatives to urge passage of the Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act, and donating to pediatric health.


5. Hospitals failing price transparency rule

About 6-9 months after federal hospital price transparency rules went into effect, just 5.7% of facilities were completely compliant, according to recent JAMA research. The new rules require hospitals to disclose standard charges for all services in an accessible file, and require that they provide a consumer-friendly display for at least 300 shoppable services.

Of the over 5,000 hospitals evaluated, 13.9% had the accessible standard charges file, 29.4% had the shoppable display, and over half had neither of the price transparency requirements. The research also finds that hospitals in highly concentrated markets are less likely to be transparent. Last week, CMS announced it had issued its first civil monetary penalties to two hospitals due to their noncompliance.