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June 3, 2024

Governor Signs Bills to Increase Federal Funds for Nutrition Support, Save Coloradans Money on Prescription Drugs

DENVER, CO – Today, Governor Jared Polis signed two pieces of bipartisan legislation that save Coloradans money on prescription drugs and help fund housing and nutrition services for those on Medicaid.

SB24-110, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, and Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Weld County, and Representatives Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, and Emily Sirota, D-Denver, prohibits the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing from requiring prior authorization for an antipsychotic prescription drug used to treat a mental illness or disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

“The two bills signed into law today will make life more affordable for families I represent in Denver,” Rodriguez said. “SB-110 removes barriers to prior authorization requirements so that more Coloradans will be able to access the antipsychotic prescription drugs they need to thrive, while HB-1322 will redirect Medicaid funds to housing and nutrition programs. Together, these laws will support Coloradans – especially those from historically marginalized communities.”

“Authorization requirements for antipsychotic medications are forcing patients to ration their prescriptions or skip doses entirely, which can be challenging for their recovery,” said Amabile. “This law removes unnecessary authorization requirements for some antipsychotic medications so Coloradans with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental health disorders can receive their medications when they need them.”

“Many Coloradans with a serious mental health condition don’t have access to specific  prescription medication when they need it due to prior authorization requirements,” said Sirota. “This law removes barriers and improves access so Coloradans can receive their antipsychotic prescription on time.”

HB24-1322, sponsored by Representatives Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Kyle Brown, D-Louisville, and also Rodriguez and Kirkmeyer, lays the groundwork for redirecting federal Medicaid funds to help Colorado families access nutritious food options and secure housing. This legislation will create a path to redirect Medicaid funding for services that address health-related social needs of Coloradans who already rely on the federal Medicaid program.

“With this law, we’re one step closer to securing additional federal funds to help with rental assistance, pantry stocking, and nutrition support that will strengthen our communities,” said Bird. “Everyone deserves access to healthy, nutritious food and a roof over their heads. This law will help and uplift our most vulnerable neighbors, such as youth transitioning out of foster care or older adults seeking nutrition assistance.”

“By leveraging federal funds for nutrition and housing support, Colorado can help meet the diverse needs of families in our state,” said Brown. “This law allows Colorado to access Medicaid funding for housing and nutrition programs for existing Medicaid patients,helping someone afford their rent or put food on the table. This law saves Coloradans money by leveraging federal dollars and ensures our most vulnerable neighbors are set up to thrive.”

The new law directs the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing to conduct a feasibility study and pursue a 1115 Waiver so Medicaid can fund housing and nutrition services. The feasibility study determines how Medicaid can pay for specific nutrition-based services such as medically tailored meals and pantry stocking, as well as helping with temporary housing, rent, utility assistance, and eviction prevention and tenant support. 

Utilizing dollars already spent on housing and nutrition support services through a 1115 Medicaid Waiver would provide Colorado with a federal match and the flexibility to design and improve Medicaid programs to fit the needs of Coloradans. It would also help the state conserve local and state financial resources.

This cost-neutral model for redirecting Medicaid funds to housing and nutrition support is successfully used in more than 15 states across the nation, including Arkansas, California, New Jersey and North Carolina.

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