Jun 6, 2023

Julia previously served as the Connelly Policy Advocate at CCLP, supporting CCLP's legal and legislative efforts to advance economic justice and racial equity in Colorado.

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PRESS RELEASE: Medical debt credit reporting legislation signed into law in Colorado

by | Jun 6, 2023

Colorado becomes the first state to prohibit medical debt information from being included on consumer credit reports and factored into credit scores

 

DENVER, CO — June 6, 2023 — Historic consumer protection legislation, House Bill 23-1126, was signed into law on Monday. The bill stops medical debt from being included on credit reports and factored into credit scores in Colorado, except under very narrow circumstances.

The legislation makes Colorado the first state in the country to enact legislation barring all medical debt from being included on credit reports.

One in eight Coloradans have medical debt in collections, and the burden is especially acute among marginalized communities. Due to systemic inequities, one in five people in communities of color in Colorado have medical debt in collections — nearly twice the rate of medical debt in majority-white communities. Lower-income people, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, uninsured people, women, LGBTQ+ people, and young people are also disproportionately burdened.

“This legislation will give people with medical debt a fair chance at getting back on their feet after a major medical event,” says Julia Char Gilbert, Connelly Policy Advocate at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, which led the coalition behind the bill. “While we work to eliminate the root causes of medical debt, this legislation will provide needed relief to the 700,000 Coloradans who have medical debt in collections. This is an extraordinary victory for patients, and we are proud that Colorado is leading the nation on this.”

“No one should face barriers to housing or economic stability because they got sick and were stuck with a medical bill they couldn’t afford to pay,” says Representative Naquetta Ricks (D-Aurora), who sponsored the legislation in the House alongside Representative Ron Weinberg (R-Loveland). “Medical debt is a bad predictor of creditworthiness, and landlords, lenders, and employers simply don’t need that information to make sound decisions about consumers’ lives.”

“People recovering from illness or injury should be focused on healing, not worrying about their credit score,” says Senator Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs), the bill’s Senate sponsor. “This legislation will make that a reality in Colorado.”

The legislation is set to take effect in August of this year and will remain in effect until July 1, 2028, unless the legislature takes action to renew the legislation. Consumer advocates are hopeful the protections will be extended.

“We are confident that the positive impacts of these protections will be abundantly clear,” says Char Gilbert. “We are optimistic that lawmakers will understand the tremendous value of the legislation and will act to extend it in perpetuity.”

 

House Bill 23-1126 was championed by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and a diverse coalition of partners, including AARP Colorado, ALS Association, Bell Policy Center, Centennial State Prosperity, Chronic Care Collaborative, Community Economic Defense Project, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Colorado Community Health Network, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, Colorado Hospital Association, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, Colorado Poverty Law Project, Disability Law Colorado, Elephant Circle, Healthier Colorado, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado, Mental Health Colorado, New Era Colorado, Progress Now Colorado, Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute, Small Business Majority, Soul 2 Soul Sisters, Spring Institute, Towards Justice, and Young Invincibles.

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.