In cash-strapped Colorado, consensus building for more school-based health care


State Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, let the fleeting pleasant experience wash over him: His bill to make school-based health care more accessible, HB 11-1019, passed out of committee on a unanimous vote.

Currently, health clinics located in schools treat uninsured children for free but have to charge insured children the appropriate co-pays. If you thought it was hard to make sure every first-grader had 30 cents in his pocket every morning for breakfast, imagine making sure your kid has $30 in her pocket in case she gets the sniffles.

Kagan said even the insurance companies support his bill, because, he says, they know their overall costs are reduced if kids get preventative treatment when they need it rather than a trip to the emergency room a day later.

“It seemed like all concerned thought this barrier should be removed,” he told The Colorado Independent. “Insurance companies and Republicans all joined me in getting this out of committee. Sometimes Republicans don’t support Democrat bills–not because they disagree with them but–just because they don’t want to give the other side a victory.

“And, it’s not unheard of for insurance companies to say, ‘that’s not an unreasonable bill’ but to oppose it anyway just because the sponsor of the bill hasn’t always been a friend, and they haven’t always looked at me as a friend.

“It was heartening that in this case, everyone looked beyond politics,” he said.

Kagan said that in his district the clinics would have stopped treating insured kids in July, but that if the bill passes there will be no disruption in service.

“When kids can’t get the care they need, entire families are disrupted. This bill keeps our most vulnerable children healthy and focused on their education,” said Rep. Kagan. “Insurance and medical providers both agree that preventative care drives insurance costs down system-wide, by keeping kids out of the emergency room and receiving the care they need when they need it.”

Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, will carry the bill in the Senate.

Melissa Field, communications and policy director for the Colorado Association of School Based Health Care, said there are 47-school based health clinics in the state. They operate on a total budget of just over $9 million a year, of which $1 million comes from the state. The rest comes from grants from private philanthropic foundations, the federal government, local governments and private donors.

She said this bill eliminates red tape and makes the clinics more efficient. Insurance companies will still be billed when insured children come to the clinics.

She said the clinics are located in inner city areas, poor areas and rural areas where health care is not readily available.

Clinics provide a variety of services, including well child exams, immunizations, diagnosis of illness and injury, lab tests, management of chronic issues such as asthma and diabetes, treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues. Some of the clinics even include dental services.

She said access to such clinics improves attendance and even reduces drop-out rates as healthy kids are more likely to thrive in school.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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