Afternoon Headlines: March 29th, 2017

Hospitals across the state are rejoicing over legislation Colorado Senator Jerry Sonnenberg introduced Monday night that could spare them millions of dollars in budget cuts.

The bill would allow the state to reclassify a fee hospitals pay the state. Without that reclassification, the state must cut that fee by more than $260 million to reduce the amount of money coming and so avoid hitting constitutionally mandated revenue limits.

You might think cutting the fees paid to the state is something hospitals would welcome, but doing so would mean leaving hundreds of millions in matching federal grants on the table. The fee and those matching grants are pooled and they go back to hospitals to help pay for the health care of low-income and uninsured residents. Without that money, hospitals across the state will face budget cuts or cuts in services.

Sonnenberg’s bill would exempt the hospital provider fee from state tax revenue limits.

Trampas Hutches, administrator for Melissa Memorial Hospital in Phillips County, says if the fee cut goes into effect, his hospital will be in the red by up to half a million dollars next year.“It’s really going to hit us pretty hard as far as our bottom line, and our ability to offer services and provide care for the uninsured,” he says.

Check out The Colorado Independent today for an interactive map showing exactly how hospitals across the state will be affected if the cuts go through.


A third effort to grant transgender Coloradans an easier path to a birth certificate that reflects their true gender identity went down to defeat this week at the state Capitol.

The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, which is controlled by Republicans, killed a bill that would have allowed transgender Coloradans to work with the state’s registrar instead of going to court.

Despite the bill’s defeat, its Senate sponsor, Democratic Senator Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, vowed he would bring the bill back every year until it passes.

Republicans, in voting against the bill, said the birth certificate is little more than an historical document. Opponents of the bill, including former U.S. Attorney Mike Norton, claimed that the law would allow men to go into women’s locker rooms, play on sports teams of the opposite sex and commit fraud.

But transgender Coloradans, their families and medical professionals all say that changing the birth certificate would make safe housing, employment and health care less risky, and that there is no evidence to support the claims of fraud or other possible problems cited by the opponents.

Two years after a controversial student health survey sparked protracted debate at the State Board of Education, questions about the survey’s value have moved to the state legislature — and could mean a loss of $745,000 in state funding for the biennial data collection effort.

According to Chalkbeat, funding for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which comes primarily from the state’s Marijuana Tax Cash Funds, was not included in the proposed state budget earlier this spring and may not return despite requests by the state health department to restore the money.

The health survey is given to a sample of Colorado middle school and high school students in scores of districts every other year. It asks about topics ranging from nutrition to risky behavior, and proponents say it’s crucial for tracking trends and crafting interventions when trouble spots arise.

“The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey is the only comprehensive survey on the health and well-being of Colorado youth,” Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement.

The health survey became the focus of a debate by the State Board of Education and dueling opinions from the state attorney general’s office in 2015 after some parents raised concerns about the explicit nature of questions on sexual behavior, drugs and suicide.

The state Senate is expected this week to debate the state’s budget. The House will debate the budget after the Senate completes its review.

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