protecting Consumers

Coloradans should not face financial hardship because they need access to health care or because they have received health care services. CCHI works to protect consumers from health care industry practices that jeopardize the health and financial security of Colorado families.

Recent Work in this Area

Stopping surprise/out-of-network medical bills

Too many Coloradans have been victims of surprise medical bills (also known as surprise out-of-network bills or balance bills). These bills can hit Coloradans with hundreds or thousands of dollars in unexpected and inflated charges, and often times, Coloradans were paying for or being sent to collections for bills they should not have been responsible to pay. We crafted and passed HB19-1174 to protect Colorado consumers from these surprise bills and ensure out-of-network providers cannot inflate their charges and drive up costs. Those protections go into effect as of January 1, 2020, and will apply to any Coloradan with an insurance plan regulated in our state. As of January 1, 2022, the Federal No Surprises Act will ensure that Coloradans with insurance plans regulated federally are also protected. We are working to align the state and federal protections to ensure consumers have the greatest protections possible. For more information on how these bills can occur visit our explainer page on surprise medical bills or checkout this spotlight factsheet on the new protections. Need help with a surprise bill? Contact our CAP team

Setting standards so insurance networks have enough providers (a.k.a. network adequacy)

Insurance companies have a history of restricting the network of providers consumers can access through a plan as a way to keep costs to the insurer down. Despite establishing network adequacy standards in 2016, we continue to hear from consumers running into challenges accessing providers. As part of the Colorado Option (a.k.a. Public Option) under HB21-1232, Colorado is adding additional requirements for Colorado Option plan networks to be culturally competent, provide language access when seeking care, and ensure provider networks are responsive to the populations they serve. If you encounter situations where you think an insurer has an inadequate insurance network or you’re unable to access the care you need in a timely manner, please contact us.

Ensuring hospitals comply with state and federal financial assistance laws

There are state and federal standards for hospital financial assistance (assistance provided to consumers that are uninsured/underinsured to help them cover the costs of their treatment). CCHI helped create the first state level standards with legislation in 2012 and 2014, however, through our Consumer Assistance Program, we heard from many consumers that were not appropriately screened for assistance or were incorrectly denied it. Working again with our partners at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, HB21-1198 was passed to ensure hospitals comply with consumer financial assistance standards, screen patients consistently, and set consumer protections around payment plans and debt collection practices. For more information on hospital financial assistance, visit our explainer page.

Preventing Discriminatory Use of Big Data in Insurance

Big data can be used responsibly, but there are an increasing number of examples where it is being used, whether intentionally or not, by insurance companies in ways that exacerbate economic and racial injustices, including in health management. This is true across various types of insurance, not just health insurance. Under SB21-169, the first law of its kind nationally, insurance companies will be required to evaluate their data systems for discriminatory biases and injustice, and keep consumers whole while unraveling deep-rooted systems of discrimination, oppression, or racism.

Protecting Consumer from Non-Compliant Insurance Plans

Unfortunately, some consumers are left without consumer protections with insurance plans and health benefit products that do not have to meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits, and no annual/lifetime limits on coverage. While we have addressed some of these products in Colorado, like short-term benefit plans, which are now required to meet most of the same consumer protections, some products continue to leave consumers at great financial and health risk. CCHI is working to address health care cost sharing arrangements, which are organizations that sell options for health benefits that can appear to be insurance, but do not offer the comprehensive coverage and accountability of traditional health insurance plans. Furthermore, these arrangements put consumers at the center of payment negotiations and often leave them on the hook for large medical bills. CCHI supports policies that increase the transparency and accountability of these companies and products so that consumers can make informed choices about their health coverage and have more robust protection from unexpected medical costs.

Our Work

Access & Affordability

All Coloradans should have access to the health care they need, when they need it, and be able to afford it. While the Affordable Care Act has helped many Coloradans obtain health insurance, we know there are many that still struggle to access and afford the care they need because they cannot find a doctor or because the out-of-pocket costs are too high.

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Social Determinants of Health

Structural barriers based on race, ethnicity, income, LGBTQ status, and age among others, prevent individuals from getting the health care they need and deserve. We work toward health equity by addressing systems of oppression and barriers that lead to disparate health outcomes.

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Reimagining Health Care

Structural barriers based on race, ethnicity, income, LGBTQ status, and age among others, prevent individuals from getting the health care they need and deserve. We work toward health equity by addressing systems of oppression and barriers that lead to disparate health outcomes.

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Prescription Drug Affordability

Every year health care costs continue to rise, becoming an even bigger percentage of our economy and an increasingly unsustainable portion of family budgets. We are working to control costs and hold the health care industry accountable to patients.

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At the Capitol

Every year, CCHI fights for policies and bills that improve health care for Coloradans during the legislative session and year round within Colorado’s agencies that oversee health care. CCHI ensures consumers interests are advanced and protected in private insurance, Medicaid, hospitals and physicians’ offices, and access to prescription drugs. We empower Coloradans to use their own health care experiences to make positive change.

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Colorado Consumer Health Initiative
303 E 17th Ave, Suite 400
Denver, CO 80203



Reach Out!

Sara Kraeski, Board Chair | Chief Financial Officer
Sara is the Chief Financial Officer for Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, a Rocky Mountain regional law firm located in Denver, Colorado. She works with the firm’s Executive Committee to oversee the firm's financial management, risk management, and client relations programs, including practice economics, legal matter management, and client satisfaction initiatives. Sara joined Davis Graham & Stubbs in 1992 and was a partner in the firm prior to assuming an administrative management position. As a practicing lawyer, she specialized in corporate transactions, representing clients in public and private securities offerings, merger and acquisition transactions and corporate financings. Sara received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and her M.B.A. in Health Care Management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992.

Barry Danielson, Board Treasurer | Real Estate Investor
Barry Danielsen is currently a real estate investor and developer along with his wife of over 30 years. For the 20 years prior to these endeavors, he ran a consulting practice where he advised investors, owners and brokers regarding financial considerations of acquisition, disposition and development opportunities in commercial real estate. Barry served on the boards of St. Anne’s Episcopal School (PK-8) in Denver; the High Mountain Institute in Leadville which is primarily an academic and wilderness semester school for motivated college-bound juniors; and Big City Mountaineers, a non-profit out of Golden that offers transformative wilderness mentoring expeditions for under-resourced urban youth. Barry earned a B.S. of Business Administration from the University of Colorado and an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Denver. He is a licensed real estate broker in the state of Colorado. A native of Denver, Barry enjoys all forms of skiing, backpacking, hiking, climbing 14ers, and yoga.

Phillip Chung, Board Vice Chair Elect | Evaluation and Research Consultant
Phillip is an evaluation and research consultant with 20 years of experience working at or with nonprofit organizations, foundations, and academic institutions. His research interests centers on patient and consumer representation in health organizational governance and the implementation of community-based approaches to improving health systems. He has experience developing single and multi-site evaluation initiatives, as well as translating complex research findings to diverse audiences. Formerly, Phillip was the Assistant Director for Research, Evaluation and Strategic Learning at The Colorado Trust where he managed the development and implementation of multi-year evaluation initiatives, designed approaches to assess the progress and results of grant strategies, and oversaw internal and external strategies to foster systematic opportunities for learning. He has served on the board of directors for Colorado African Organization and as an advisory member for The Denver Foundation’s Basic Human Needs committee and the National League of Cities’ Expanding Healthcare Access for Children and Families. Phillip has a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and a PhD in Health and Behavioral Sciences from the University of Colorado Denver.

Christy Blakely, Board Member | Health Consultant
Christy is a health consultant and serves on several nonprofit boards including NICHQ Early Childhood Education CoIIN Project, Family Engagement Lead. She was Executive Director of Family Voices Colorado from 2000-2012, an organization that advocates for children and youth with special health care needs. She has a masters degree in Special Education from Purdue University. Her and her husband Todd, parented a daughter with significant disabilities. Lauren, now 35 years of age, was born prematurely and was oxygen deprived at birth. Having degrees in the field of special education gave Christy insights into the world of special needs, and over the years she teamed with insurance companies, doctors, families, schools, advocates, professionals, therapists, hospital staff, policy makers and state agencies to provide for her daughter and advocate for many other children with special needs. She has learned and shared her learning in assistive technology, systems navigation, service delivery systems, public and private health insurance, policy, law and most importantly resources and funding with people around the State of Colorado and nationally. Parenting Lauren and her other daughter, Allison, brought Christy's professional experiences an added personal dimension. Christy defines herself as a positive, strategic thinker, a life long learner, a relationship builder and a change agent. She has a passion to work with families to navigate today’s complex healthcare systems.

Beth Dembroski, Board Member | Lawyer
Beth is an attorney who practices consumer-based healthcare law, elder law, criminal defense, and VA disability law at Triple L Law, P.C.. Beth is a former Navy Judge Advocate, having joined the Navy JAG Corps upon completing her J.D. from U. of Denver, Sturm College of Law. During her time in the JAG Corps she served as a legal assistance attorney, military criminal defense attorney, and as the Deputy JAG at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. After leaving the Navy, Beth earned a Master of Science in HealthCare Leadership focusing in HealthCare Policy and Law, and has been very active in the healthcare policy community in Denver. Before joining the Board in 2022, Beth had been a very active member of CCHI’s policy committee. Beth is currently a member of the Legal Advisory Council for Triage Cancer, and her legal associations include Secretary of the Colorado Bar Association Elder Law Section and member of the Military and Veteran’s Affairs Section, member of the American Health Lawyers Association, and member of the American Bar Association. Beth proudly holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Penn State University, is a returned Peace Corps Mongolia member, and is a former AmeriCorps VISTA Leader (Fairbanks, AK). Beth has two young boys who are wildlife enthusiasts, students of Tae Kwon Do, and the oldest of the two is a budding professional golfer.

Elizabet Garcia, Board Member | Entreprenuer 
Elizabet Garcia Hernandez was born and raised in Greeley, Colorado to Mexican parents. She spent her childhood moving around town as work appeared for her parents ranging from farmwork to construction. She understands the complexity of the healthcare system and advocates for the community she grew up in. Elizabet graduated from the University of Denver with degrees in International Studies, Spanish, and a minor in Business Administration. She has
had the opportunity to create partnerships with various organizations over the last couple of years including Colorado Peoples Alliance, The Denver Foundation, CLLARO, and The Colorado Democratic Party. Most recently she opened up her own political consulting business called Verbo LLC where she worked with clients around the state passing legislation for directly impacted communities. During the 2021 legislative session, she supported legislation to create
a Colorado Public Option. Having had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact that healthcare can have on an individual and hear testimonies throughout the legislative session she knew that getting involved on a deeper level was the next step and has since then become one of our new board members. She is excited to continue to flourish the partnerships she has created and of course continue to make new ones along the way.

Sharon O’Hara, Board Member | Director
Sharon rejoins the CCHI board after a 2 ½ year break. Sharon has a proven track record in state level advocacy, legislative and regulatory initiatives as well as educational programs to address health and social issues. She currently directs the work of the Chronic Care Collaborative, a Colorado-based collaborative of 34 voluntary health organizations. In representing the 1 in 4 Coloradans with a chronic disease the Collaborative joined with other groups to pass the bi-partisan legislation that established the state based exchange, called Connect for Health Colorado, and more recently to pass network adequacy regulations that closely mirror model regulations from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Sharon recently retired after ten years as Executive Vice President at the MS Society Colorado-Wyoming Chapter and an accomplished career in executive leadership and management of nonprofit and health care organizations. Sharon was appointed five years ago to that Board by the Governor to represent consumers. She has demonstrated success and expertise in development of networks and community partnerships, working with state and local policy makers to address accessible and affordable health care.

Tracey StewartBoard Member | Senior Program Officer-Affordable Housing
Tracey, who joined The Colorado Health Foundation in November 2020 as a senior program officer, has amassed a breadth of experience in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, including public policy development and community investment projects.  With a BA in English Literature from Dartmouth College and a MA in Education and Leadership at University of Denver, and backed by almost twenty years of expertise in family economic mobility, she searches for sustainable investments that create lasting solutions, and ultimately change the way philanthropy thinks about community-driven initiatives to emphasize self-sufficiency and self-determination.  Previously, Tracey served as the director of family economic security at Gary Community Investments, where she led the expansion of community-based investments in workforce, affordable housing and financial inclusion. Other highpoints of her nonprofit career include working on policy at Colorado Center on Law and Policy and community data management at Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Prior to her roles in the nonprofit sector, Tracey was a technologist specializing in data systems and organizational change management. Tracey remains committed to strengthening her community and serves as a board member for both Hope Communities and Uncharted. She is also a part of advisory committees for Warren Village, Grounded Solutions and NPX Advisors Group. Tracey loves immersing herself in written and filmed stories, and is a self-described bibliophile (a person who loves books) and science fiction fan. When she is unable to travel internationally, Tracey loves to visit Crestone, Colorado, or explore her neighborhood through lengthy walks that end with a treat from a local restaurant or market. A proud aunt, she is close with her siblings who also live in Denver.

Monserrath Vera, Board Member | Healthcare Consultant
Monserrath is a healthcare professional, and management consultant, who brings 14 years of experience in the healthcare arena. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Regis University in Human Resources Management with a Minor in Health Care Administration. As well, a Master’s degree from the University of Denver in Healthcare Management, Concentration in Global Health Program Management and Certification in Policy & Regulations. Also, she earned a Diploma in Medical Coding and an Associate degree in Project Management. Her experience in the public health area started, more than 20 years ago, as part of the MIDUVI (Ministry of Urban Development and Housing of Ecuador) team, providing training to the rural native communities in the Andean region of Ecuador. She found directly the lack of public services, the lack of health services in indigenous areas, the lack of personal hygiene, and the negligence in food preparation due to the lack of water for human consumption. Therefore, this experience deeply impacted her view, regarding the lack of effective and balanced work in the public health zone towards these communities. Her experience in the healthcare field within the US, started at Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation serving families in economic vulnerability through a program that helps families in needs, where she learned from mistakes in daily habits are due by lack of knowledge, lack of education, and neglect of the people. As well, she has been a high devoted for the volunteer job, as she served for more than three years at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver at the optional cosmetic surgery department. After that, she has been participating as a volunteer in the cure for breast cancer with the Susan Komen Foundation since 2014. She worked for Colorado Access an organization that works directly with Medicaid patients, her role there was crucial to managing the education and training for medical providers to serve better the Medicaid consumers. She is foundress the community of Ecuadorian residents in Colorado and serves on the Board of directors of this association. As a Board member of the Colorado Consumers Health Initiatives (CCHI); across this entity, she is looking forward to serving the Coloradoan community through her inputs to improve the access to services of health consumers.

Marley Weaver-Gabel, Board Member | Campaign Coordinator
Marley recently graduated from Regis University with a B.S. in International Business and a B.A. in Interpersonal, Intercultural Communication. After graduating, she worked in the Colorado State Senate as a legislative aide. During the 2020 session, Marley supported legislation to create a Colorado Public Option, which was finally passed and signed into law in 2021. Working closely with non-profit organizations, like CCHI, on healthcare accessibility and affordability inspired Marley to seek opportunities to become more engaged with healthcare advocacy and policy. Marley is passionate about integrity driven representation, and creative, bipartisan legislation that ensures rural communities are not left behind, and delivers sustainable, accessible, and affordable healthcare solutions. She has previously worked for Governor Polis in the Office of Correspondence, and is currently a campaign coordinator for a congressional campaign, Coloradans for Kerry Donovan. Born and raised in Colorado, Marley is a frequent visitor to the mountains and a novice backyard gardener and innovative home chef. 


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