This post is part of our series called Understanding the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in Colorado – where we explain aspects of the ARPA that relate to health coverage, and other information relevant to you and your clients. This blog post, the second in the series, focuses on how the ARPA impacts Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. Visit our blog to read the first post of the series, Understanding the American Rescue Plan Act in Colorado: Private and Marketplace Insurance.

COVID-19 Testing, Treatment, and Vaccine:

Because of the ARPA, Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program) and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) members can now receive testing, treatment, and now a vaccine for COVID-19 without cost sharing.

The ARPA also made the following changes:

  • Requiring COVID-19 vaccines be covered for people in limited-benefit Medicaid categories, such those who receive care for breast and cervical cancer.
  • Expanding the state option to cover some COVID-19 benefits for uninsured or underinsured people. Previously, states could only cover testing for COVID-19 for people without health coverage. Under the ARPA, states may also cover COVID-19 vaccines and treatment for the disease. States may also cover treatment for conditions that may complicate COVID-19 treatment if the person has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The federal government will pay for 100% of these services, rather than other services where the state splits the cost with the federal government.

In April 2020, Colorado took the state option to provide testing for uninsured Coloradans who are not eligible for Health First Colorado or CHP+. Currently, people can apply for the COVID-19 limited testing benefit using the paper or PEAK application. More information on this coverage is available in, CKF’s COVID-19 Health Coverage System and Policy Changes resource. We don’t know yet if the state will expand this benefit but will share information in the CKF newsletter and monthly meeting, and update this blog as more information becomes available.

The ARPA requires Medicaid and CHIP to cover these services through the end of the calendar quarter, one year after the public health emergency (PHE) ends. This means if the PHE ends in December 2021, this requirement will continue through the end of the first quarter of 2023. This is an exciting extension from before, when covering these benefits without out-of-pocket costs from members was not required for as long.

State Option to Expand Postpartum Coverage

The ARPA creates the option for states to extend postpartum coverage for pregnant people enrolled in Health First Colorado and CHP+ from 60 days to 12 months. Postpartum coverage is very important for all pregnant people, and especially for people of color, particularly Black and American Indian and Alaskan Native people, who have disproportionately higher rates of maternal mortality.[1] We are excited about this opportunity to address socioeconomic and racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes. This option is available for five years beginning in April 2022. There is currently a bill before the Colorado legislature considering implementing this option. We will share more information in the CKF newsletter and monthly meeting, and update this blog if, and when, the bill passes.

Visit our blog to read the next post of the series, Understanding the American Rescue Plan Act in Colorado: Economic, Housing, and Food Assistance.

More resources for a deep dive into how the ARPA impacts Medicaid and CHIP include: