Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ritters signs Health care bills


Gov. Bill Ritter signed four health-care bills into law today, including measures to help families with developmentally disabled children and young people in foster care. The measures also will assist families unable to afford breakfast for school children and will address health disparities in minority communities across the state.

“The bills I signed today will help address accessibility and affordability of health care and ensure kids get a healthier start to their day,” Gov. Ritter said. “These new laws make good health-care sense and good fiscal sense. When we talk about bills like these, we should always ask a few important questions: Is it good for kids? Will it make a real difference in the lives of children? Is it a good investment? The answer today is yes, yes and yes.”

Gov. Ritter signed Senate Bill 4 at the Autism Society of Colorado’s annual luncheon at Temple Emmanuel in Denver. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Shaffer and Rep. Nancy Todd, streamlines the funding process for children with developmental disabilities so they and their families have easier access to early intervention medical care. About 4,000 infants and toddlers ages 3 and younger are living with developmental disabilities in Colorado.

Gov. Ritter signed Senate Bills 2, 59 and 242 later in the day at Denver Health Medical Center.

SB 2 (Sen. Paula Sandoval, Rep. Debbie Stafford) will expand Medicaid eligibility to young adults in the foster care system through the age of 21 from the current cut-off age of 18. This will extend coverage to 1,400 young people.

SB 59 (Sen. Sandoval, Rep. Alice Madden) establishes the Start Smart Nutrition Program, providing free breakfasts to students who qualify under the free- and reduced-price lunch program. Currently, only 18 percent of qualifying children are receiving a reduced-priced breakfast and SB 59 will help a greater number of children get a healthy start to their day. Research shows a direct correlation between good nutrition and academic performance.

SB 242 (Sen. Peter Groff, Rep. Jerry Frangas) is aimed at eliminating racial, ethnic and rural health disparities in Colorado. It formalizes the state Office of Health Disparities and creates two advisory councils to assess the causes of and solutions for health care disparities in Colorado. Higher rates of death, disabilities, and disease among minorities cost Coloradans through cost-shifting of care for the uninsured. For instance, according to CDPHE, eliminating the health disparity just for diabetes would save Colorado taxpayers more than $80 million annually.