Bills to Improve Maternal Health, Address Health Disparities, and Expand Reproductive Health Care Access Signed

DENVER, CO– Governor Polis today signed seven bills into law to support the health and wellbeing of Colorado families. These include bills to improve maternal health, expand access to family planning services, address social determinants of health, and more. 

“This year, we set out to tackle one of the most pressing issues in health care: improving maternal health and addressing racial health disparities,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, sponsor of SB21-181, 193, and 194. “The maternal health ‘momnibus’ package signed into law today seeks to improve the subpar perinatal and postnatal care available to American women. Knowing that Black and Indigenous women face even worse care and higher maternal mortality rates, the package addresses the issue with a strong focus on equity and closing the maternal care treatment gap.” 

“As a woman of color and a pediatrician, improving health equity in Colorado has always been one of my top priorities,” said Doctor Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, sponsor of SB21-181 and 009. “The bills signed today will help Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in Colorado access the care they need. In particular, one of the new laws signed will ensure that low-income women and women of color can access the reproductive health care and contraception options they need to stay healthy and well.” 

SB21-193 takes several steps to address maternal health inequality in Colorado. It ensures a pregnant person’s advance directive is honored the same way as one coming from a non-pregnant person, addressing what’s known as the pregnancy exclusion clause that was recently found unconstitutional by a federal judge. The bill also requires the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to receive reports regarding culturally incongruent maternal care provided to pregnant women or those in postpartum care, and it adds protections for pregnant people in jails and state correctional facilities.

SB21-194 requires insurance carriers as well as state insurance plans to reimburse health care providers for services related to labor and delivery in a way that promotes high-quality, cost-effective care, prevents risk in subsequent pregnancies, and does not discriminate based on the type of provider or facility. Additionally, the bill seeks to amend the State Medicaid Plan, subject to federal approval, to provide 12 months of postpartum medical benefits to people who received these benefits during pregnancy.

SB21-181 expands and improves the existing Health Disparities Grant Program and requires the Department of Public Health and Environment to prepare a biennial report on health disparities and how best to address social determinants of health for underrepresented populations.

SB21-009 allows more Colorado families to make their own choices about when to start a family. The bill establishes the Reproductive Health Care Program, which would provide a 12-month supply of contraceptives and counseling services without prior authorization or co-pays to eligible individuals, regardless of citizenship status. Women who receive a year’s supply of oral contraceptive are 30 percent less likely to experience an unintended pregnancy than those who receive one or three-month supplies at a time.

“Even before the pandemic began, far too many families and parents in Colorado were struggling to afford even the most essential supplies,” said Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, sponsor of SB21-025 and 027. “Today, we’re one step closer to guaranteeing that no baby in Colorado has to go without diapers. We also expanded coverage for family planning services to ensure that all Coloradans are empowered to decide how and when they want to start a family. As a working mom myself, I know how impactful these new laws will be for parents all across the state.” 

“Diapers are a basic necessity for young parents,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver, sponsor of SB21-027. “And yet, almost a third of all parents across the country report struggling to afford the amount they need. The law created today will allow struggling families to obtain the diapers they need and focus on other needs for their young families. No baby in Colorado should go without essential supplies.

SB21-025, also sponsored by Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, would expand Medicaid coverage for family planning services to more individuals who are currently prevented from accessing care because they are just above the eligibility limit. The coverage would give more Coloradans the resources and information necessary to make decisions about how and when to start a family by providing counseling services, access to contraceptives, and information regarding available health care coverage. A majority of states across the country have already taken up the option to raise the Medicaid eligibility.

SB21-027 would help new and recent parents care for their children by ensuring that diaper essentials are available to all low-income families in Colorado. The bill provides $2 million for this purpose and asks the Colorado Department of Human Services to contract with nonprofit organizations to administer diaper distribution centers. Despite the high cost of diapers and estimates that show about 1 in 3 U.S. families report needing more diapers, diapers cannot be purchased through public assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Woman, Infants, and Children program (WIC).

“Early screenings and preventative care can massively improve health outcomes for Coloradans,” said Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, sponsor of SB21-016. “At a time when far too many Coloradans, especially LGBTQ Coloradans, are having difficulties accessing critical health care services, we’re taking a bold step to ensure everyone can get the care they need.” 

“Preventative care, routine screenings and critical testing can mean the difference between life and death,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn, sponsor of SB21-016. “As an ER Nurse, I know the importance of diagnosing life-threatening conditions early. I’m proud that starting now, health insurance coverage won’t be a barrier to accessing preventative health care and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, like cervical cancer.” 

SB21-016 requires health plans to cover several critical preventative health services regardless of cost, such as osteoporosis screening, screenings for urinary conditions and sexually transmitted infection (STI) health care services, such as vaccinations for STIs.  The bill would require coverage for diagnosis and treatment of STIs and contraceptive and family planning services. Importantly, it would reduce surprise billing for annual wellness visits by ensuring co-pay free coverage for STI testing and prevention, and closing gaps in family planning coverage.