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Colorado lawmakers advance bill expanding Medicaid to undocumented children, pregnant women

Committee passes bill on 8-4 vote
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Posted at 5:30 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 22:33:20-04

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are taking a huge step toward expanding Medicaid on Friday.

The House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services committee voted 8-4 to move forward HB22-1289, which would expand coverage to pregnant women and children, regardless of immigration status. It also aims to improve access to health benefits for economically insecure Colorado families among other things.

“I think it’s best if we expand it,” said 11-year-old Giovani Juarez-Granados before the committee hearing on Friday.

For Giovani, 2021 started out a little rough.

“It was January-something,” he said. “We were coming back from Montrose and I kept on throwing up on the way. We had to stop the car. I threw up. I ate something. I threw it back up. Sometimes, I just threw up just spit because I didn't eat anything."

The 11-year-old needed medical care.

“My appendix got inflamed, so it got, like, big. It was on the verge of bursting," Giovani said.

But the cost of that care is often a huge financial barrier for undocumented families like Giovani’s.

Dr. Brianna Morgan, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Colorado, said she treats all children.

“Too often, I see children who wind up in the emergency room really sick for something that could have been prevented with primary care,” said Dr. Brianna Morgan, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Colorado.

She and others testified before the health and human services committee on behalf of the bill.

The cost of expanding Medicaid to Colorado children and pregnant women regardless of immigration status is estimated at $16 million.

But Morgan and other doctors say the state will easily make up those costs in savings from families getting preventive care rather than waiting for much more expensive emergency services.

"Not only is it costly to do things once they're in emergency, but also, it's really sad,” Morgan said. “It's a lot of stress for the family. It can do harm to the child. We've certainly seen some cases of irreparable harm."

Fortunately for Giovani, his family made the right call.

“The next day, I woke up and we decided to call the hospital," Giovani said. “And then they took me to go get surgery. I fell asleep and then I woke-up — perfect. Fine."

Giovani had his appendix removed and is a happy, healthy fifth-grader this year at South Mesa Elementary in Pueblo.

The bill now goes before the House Appropriations Committee where it also has majority support.