Isabelle Nathanson

In 2017, CCHI, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) were awarded a multi-year Consumer Advocacy for Transformation grant focused on consumer engagement in Colorado’s Medicaid payment reform initiative, the Accountable Care Collaborative (ACC).

In order to ensure that Colorado’s Medicaid program puts consumers first, the project was structured around developing advocacy capacity with small community groups through trainings and organizing at the local, regional, and state levels.

Throughout the past two years we’ve worked in Pueblo, Leadville, and Lakewood alongside organizing partners locally including the Center for Health Progress, Lake County Build a Generation, Family Tree, and Colorado Mental Wellness Network, as well as with the support of Community Catalyst’s Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation. Together, we organized and advocated with the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) and Regional Accountable Entities around policies to support and center the member experience. 

As a result of our work, participants see themselves as better equipped to navigate a complex, confusing system, and serve as community advocates and resources for others. One participant describes how “having more resources to offer people is really helpful, really encouraging…I feel quite strongly about educating people and them getting their rights and teaching others to be assertive, and that that’s okay. So, I foresee myself doing more…especially with more knowledge and resources to help me do that”. Further, knowledge of how to navigate a complex system has been described by another participant as “a valuable piece of information and tool for me to use in my advocacy toolbox for my own situation, as well as for other people”

As participants attest, learning about the myriad benefits available to those enrolled in Medicaid as well as how to navigate a complex system can be empowering. One participant shared: “ I feel like I have more confidence in my understanding of things, as well as more knowledge of how to get what is needed”. Understanding our rights can also be a powerful tool in improving access to care: “if I apply for Medicaid and I get denied for an unknown reason or no reason whatsoever, I could actually fight and I could actually reapply and that’s what stuck – that I could actually have a fighting case against the office – and I am very confident that I could do that now.” 

With additional resources and training to navigate the Medicaid system, many participants gained confidence in their ability to advocate for their rights and for a Medicaid system that centers, respects, and is responsive to their lived experiences. Below, Joseph, one of our participants in Lakewood, shares about his experience:

We look forward to continuing to work with Colorado communities and at the state level to ensure that our state’s Medicaid system centers consumer voices in its work to reduce costs and improve quality. As one participant shared, the power of sharing our stories not only builds confidence, but helps create momentum for others to do the same: “I really appreciated that people shared their own experiences. It’s a way to let people know that you’re not alone. I think that encourages people to be more open with their experiences.” 

If you are enrolled in Medicaid, or are a family member or caregiver of someone who is, you can get involved! There are regional and state level member engagement structures that are created to gather feedback on how Colorado’s Medicaid program impacts your life or your community, and how it can be improved. Click here to see the various opportunities to have your voice heard, and connect with us if you need support!

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