Sanchez: Covering Colorado means covering immigrants too

Alex Sanchez
Mark_Burrows / Image Courtesy

When you face a health challenge, the best approach is to address it before things get worse.

On the other hand, addressing health care policy challenges is a slow and painstaking process that fails to take into account the near-term needs of those beneficiaries. And when it comes to making sure that health care coverage is available to immigrants, the discussion is often hijacked by extremist politicians who put political pandering above public health.

California leads the way in immigrant justice, after becoming the nation’s first state Providing health care services to immigrants Regardless of immigration status.

Colorado isn’t there yet, but we’re (slowly) moving in the right direction, especially in the last few legislative sessions.

Thanks to leadership from COLOR Latino Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), state lawmakers in 2021 created a pathway to allow undocumented people to receive reproductive health services through Medicaid.

State lawmakers built on that success this year with Cover All Coloradans (HB 22-1289). Among other things, the measure extends the expansion of Medicaid and the Basic Children’s Health Plan to include pregnant women and low-income children, regardless of immigration status — but it’s important to understand the timing. The state Department of Health Care Policy and Finance has until January 1, 2025 to provide that coverage.

Threats loom. Three Republican members of the Congressional delegation in Colorado — Reps. Lauren Poubert, Doug Lambourne and Ken Buck — have stuck to the xenophobic idea that we should make health care more affordable, and limit access to services, through their support for the “No Tax Federal Dollars Act.” Health insurance for illegal aliens. (I will also mention for the record that they chose to use the racist term “unlawful alien” to describe who was affected by the bill.)

Colorado Federal Reserve Give up innovation last year To implement the Colorado Option, a new health care plan to be introduced in 2023 that aims to lower costs for consumers and reduce racial health disparities. The exemption allows the state to keep the money it makes available to the federal government by cutting costs — so-called “passage” money — to provide benefits to Coloradans, including undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for direct federal assistance through the Affordable Care Act.

Buck frankly declared Colorado’s new approach to cutting costs and expanding care “a slap in the face for American taxpayers who get up and go to work and struggle to survive.”

The fact that Congressman Buck believes that illegal immigrants do not fit that description is a real slap in the face. The Latin community is critical to the economic vitality of communities throughout the central mountainous region. Immigrants built these mountain resort communities in every sense of the word and our tourism economy depends on their labor.

Denying health coverage to those who work to keep our communities running goes against what Voces Unidas de las Montanas and the Voces Unidas Action Fund have learned in outreach and regulation.

Nearly 6 out of 10 Latino adults surveyed as part of our site Colorado Latino Politics Agenda Last year she supported expanding access to health insurance in Colorado, including for undocumented immigrants. That number jumped to 9 out of 10 when we polled Latino leaders. why? Because our society is disproportionately and negatively affected by the current system. I advise:

  • Hispanics/Latinos were more likely to be uninsured (the rate jumped from 10.1% in 2019 to 14.4% last year) even as the state’s uninsured rate fell from 7.9% in 2019 to 7.5% last year .
  • Hispanics are three times more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanics in Colorado, and Hispanic and Hispanic children are twice as likely to be uninsured

This can – and must – change.

Colorado is making strides by expanding coverage to pregnant women and children, regardless of immigration status. But we can’t stop until everyone, regardless of immigration status, has access to health care — and we can’t wait until 2025 to make that happen.

Alex Sanchez is the founder and CEO of Voces Unidas Action Fund, a Latino-led advocacy organization operating in Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Summit, and Lake counties.