5 Things Colorado: Q&A w/ Robin Wittenstein, Colorado Option rate setting, Postpartum coverage expansion


Eli Kirshbaum


Registration is now open for the 2022 Colorado State of Reform Health Policy Conference! We’re beyond thrilled to be back in person in Denver this fall. The event will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 2nd, at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. If you already know you’d like to join us, you can register here.

We will meet with our Convening Panel on Aug. 4th to gather stakeholder feedback to inform the event’s Topical Agenda. If you’re interested in joining the Convening Panel and contributing to the curation of panel topics, feel free to reach out and we’d be happy to include you!

Our July newsletter features a conversation with the CEO of Denver Health, an update on Colorado Option implementation, a spotlight on expanded postpartum coverage, and more.

Thanks for your support!

Eli Kirshbaum 
State of Reform


1. Q&A: Dr. Robin Wittenstein, CEO of Denver Health

Denver Health CEO Dr. Robin Wittenstein—who will retire this summer—sat down with State of Reform to discuss her organization’s high rating in a recent national ranking of social responsibility in hospitals. A big part of Denver Health’s commitment to social responsibility has been focused on its own workforce. The organization created a Center for Equity, Diversity, and Opportunity, which hires lower-income Coloradans in need of work, provides employees with financial literacy training, and helps its lower-paid employees establish a future career path for themselves through its workforce development center.

Wittenstein said maintaining a diverse workforce that’s reflective of the communities it serves is one of Denver Health’s biggest priorities. “We’re a safety net; we take care of a wide diversity of patients. And if we can increase the diversity of the people who are caring for patients, we’re going to improve care right from the get-go.” She also called for more state and federal funding for safety net providers and invited partners to collaborate with Denver Health to find ways to address financial inequities among their patient population.


2. Colorado Option Standardized Plan rates will soon be finalized

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs has entered the newest phase of implementing the Colorado Option: finalizing reimbursement rates for health insurance carriers’ Standardized Plan offerings. Plans submitted their proposed rates to DORA in April, and the department will host several meetings to get feedback from various stakeholder groups before releasing finalized standardized plan rates this fall.

This move follows the state’s recent creation of a Standardized Plan benefit design, incorporating the input of a multitude of stakeholder groups. CMS also approved the state’s 1332 waiver amendment request last month, allowing it to receive $135 million in annual federal funding to operationalize the Colorado Option.


3. Postpartum coverage extended to 12 months

Following over a dozen other states in recent months, Colorado officially expanded postpartum Medicaid and CHP+ coverage from 60 days to 12 months on July 1st. The expansion was mandated by Senate Bill 194, passed last year after ARPA made it easer for states to request a 12-month postpartum coverage extension from CMS.

Gretchen McGinnis of Colorado Access told State of Reform about the significance of this expansion, which will impact the around 25,000 live births covered by Medicaid in the state each year. “The care that [new mothers] get is not isolated to just postpartum care. If the mom develops another condition 6 months post delivery or needs additional pharmaceutical support or other specialty care for a condition that is new or predates her delivery, that’s all fully covered from the time that she was enrolled in Medicaid until 12 months after delivery.”

4. Polis takes action to support out-of-state abortion patients

Continuing Colorado’s efforts to serve as a sanctuary state for abortion seekers in the midst of the Roe v. Wade overturn, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order last week directing state agencies to protect out-of-state patients who come to Colorado for abortion care. The directive prohibits Colorado agencies from complying with other states’ investigations of patients who are violating their new abortion restriction laws.

“We are taking needed action to protect and defend individual freedom and protect the privacy of Coloradans,” Polis said in a statement. “This important step will ensure that Colorado’s thriving economy and workforce are not impacted based on personal health decisions that are wrongly being criminalized in other states.” Abortion clinics in the state are reporting significant increases in out-of-state patient volume following the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

5. Spotlight on long-term care workforce needs

The US long-term care workforce continues to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, and Colorado is no exception. Doug Farmer, President and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association and the Center for Assisted Living, told State of Reform that 25% of LTC nurses in the state are coming through staffing agencies, which often charge 2-4 times the rate that it would usually cost to hire these professionals. He estimated Colorado’s LTC workforce to be short around 5,000 professionals.

Farmer also noted a difference in perspective regarding the threat of COVID between long-term care facilities and traditional health care. “Across the country, people sort of feel like the pandemic is over in a lot of ways. In nursing homes that is certainly not the case,” Farmer said. Not only can one positive case force LTC facilities to return to COVID safety protocols, but the virus’s ongoing threat also decreases employee morale and the mental health of LTC residents, he said.