2023 Leg Session, Exclusives, Featured, Gold Dome, HCPF, Health Care

Emails show coordination between state health care agency, activists in pushing hospital-related bills

DENVER — An open records request by Complete Colorado on the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) shows coordination between the department and progressive activists, who in turn have connections to legislators carrying bills this session that could change the way health care works in Colorado.

In March, Complete Colorado filed open records requests on HCPF asking for emails or other correspondence to or from several employees of HCPF in relation to three hospital-related bills in the Colorado House of Representatives this session.

The bills

The first is House Bill 1215 which would put limits on what hospitals could charge for facility fees. It is being sponsored in the House by Democrats Emily Sirota and Andrew Boesnecker and in the Senate by Democrats Kyle Mullica and Lisa Cutter.

It passed in the House on third reading on a near party-line vote and is scheduled to be heard at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee on April 27.

Another bill, House Bill 1243 concerns changes to what is known as the hospital community benefit by imposing requirements that increase the amount of net revenue spent by hospitals on community benefits. It is being sponsored in the House by Democrat Judy Amabile and in the Senate by Democrat Dominick Moreno. It has passed the House and is awaiting being heard on second reading in the Senate.

The final bill, House Bill 1226, may be the most telling in so much as who is behind all the proposed changes that could push Colorado health care one step closer to a government managed system. The bill, which concerns hospital transparency and reporting requirements, opens up the finances of hospitals to state officials. It is being sponsored in the House by Democrat Chris deGruy Kennedy and Republican Matt Soper and in the Senate by Democrat Dylan Roberts and Republican Perry Will. It has passed the House and is assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, but no date has been set for a committee hearing as of this publication.

The transparency aspect being pushed in HB 1226 is ironic in that deGruy Kennedy’s wife is one of the main activists coordinating with HCPF on at least one of the other two hospital bills according to many of the emails obtained by Complete Colorado.

Coordination revealed

On Jan. 31, Kyra deGruy Kennedy emailed a group of officials in the Governor’s office and HCPF with a list of “action items.”

“The governor’s team will determine if requiring a tax estimate from the state auditor will result in a fiscal note,” Kyra wrote. “The HCPF team is exploring ways to financially penalize hospitals for the amount of their tax exemption if a hospital/system is out of compliance and will bring that mechanism and estimated amount to our next meeting.”

On Feb. 10, Jo Donlin, a legislative liaison with the Governor’s office, sent a draft outline of HB 1243 to the same email thread announcing they found a sponsor in Amabile and requested feedback on the draft.

Kyra replied with a different version of the draft and included advocate comments. She also offered to be the “primary contact for the advocacy orgs” as the bill progressed through the process.

Kyra’s relevance to the bill (other than her husband being a legislator and prime sponsor on one of the three bills) is she is Rocky Mountain Director of Young Invincibles, which is a progressive non-profit organization of “young voices,” advocating for, among other things, Medicaid expansion and the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The name is rumored to be taken from the idea that young people often go without health insurance because they think they are invincible.

On Kyra’s bio page at Young Invincibles, she says she abandoned her dream to become a doctor because after working in a primary care clinic, she “realized the healthcare delivery system was broken and she shifted her trajectory into changing public policy.”

Kyra is also currently running for House District 30, which is the seat her husband currently holds. He is term-limited in 2024. Kyra already has already raised more than $20,000 in donations for the 2024 election, including the maximum donation of $400 from Amabile, the prime sponsor on the bill Kyra is pushing. Amabile’s donation came just one month after insiders learned she would be the prime sponsor on HB 1243.

Another well-known donor that maxed out to Kyra’s campaign includes Sweep Blue, a now-disbanded political committee that was organized by former Rep. Tracey Burnett, who was charged with several felonies for lying about where she lived so she could run for re-election in 2022 after she was drawn out of her district through redistricting.

Emails withheld

In all, HCPF charged Complete Colorado $2,500 to release 318 emails, while refusing to release well over 1000 more, claiming they are “work product.”

“Disclosure of any pre-decisional draft documents at this time would endanger the frank and honest discussion and exchange of ideas within the government,” the “privilege log” regarding the withheld emails provided to Complete Colorado reads.

The “pre-disclosure draft” reasoning behind HCPF’s withholding of emails signals more changes to the way health care is handled in Colorado are likely to come in the next session while Democrats hold an unprecedented majority in the legislature.

Complete Colorado is still sifting through all the emails and will continue to report the behind-the-scenes plays by HCPF, activists and the Governor’s office on the bills as they continue to make their way through the legislature in its final days.


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