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Secretary Becerra touts improved health care access and equity during Colorado visit

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by Lindsey Toomer, Colorado Newsline
April 3, 2024

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra spoke with local leaders about improving health care access and equity Wednesday at a community health center in Denver. 

Gathered at the Tepeyac Community Health Center, the group talked about Colorado’s progress in improving health care affordability as well as ways the Biden-Harris administration can further support those efforts. 

“We’re going to do everything we can to reach out to the communities that have been left out,” Becerra said. 

The Latino community has seen the highest increase in health insurance coverage in the last three years, Becerra said, with a 52% increase nationally last year in Latino people signing up for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. He said the Black community came close with a 49% increase. 

“The reason we’re breaking records is because principally the communities that were least insured, the Black and brown communities, are now gaining access to coverage, and that’s not an accident. That wasn’t by luck, it was a lot of hard work,” Becerra said. “That’s because we went out and intentionally found people that didn’t have access to the care they needed.”

With the 2024 presidential election approaching, the Biden campaign is attempting to maintain strong support from Black and Latino voters amid indications their approval of the president has declined during his time in office. Support from those communities would be essential for Biden to win reelection in November.

Community health centers like Tepeyac need a consistent, permanent stream of funding that isn’t debated every year during the congressional budget process, Becerra said. Certain health centers that serve as safety net providers in high-need communities are eligible for funding from the federal government, but that funding fluctuates year to year. 

Polis said collaboration with the Biden administration will continue to help Colorado lead when it comes to health care policy. He noted the state’s pending application with the Food and Drug Administration that would allow Colorado to import certain less expensive prescription drugs from Canada. The governor also touted Colorado’s Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board and said the state wants to cap private payer costs of certain prescription drugs. 

“I know we’re doing something right because we’ve been sued by pharma already,” Polis said. “We’re looking at every way we can to save people money, reduce costs — and that means reducing costs at the individual level and also the system level.” 

Occupational therapist Rebecca Gillett, who serves on Colorado’s Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise Board, talked at the event about how she grew up watching her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines, struggle without access to proper health coverage. When she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her 20s, she became even more aware of how difficult it can be to afford care with a chronic illness. 

“I ended up borrowing money from my home equity that I owned in Florida in order to pay for my health coverage for the first year and a half while I was in grad school,” Gillett said. “To me, access to care is imperative, and for people who have chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases, the care is really expensive. I’m paying a student loan and a loan that was basically to pay for my health care for a year and a half.” 

While Gillett said she’s proud of the progress Colorado has made, there’s still more work to be done. She said for people with chronic conditions, navigating health insurance systems is like a part-time job. 

Becerra also joined U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a Thornton Democrat who used to work as a pediatrician, in Commerce City Wednesday afternoon to further discuss health care and prescription drug affordability with local providers and advocates.

This story is republished from CO Newsline under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.