In 2017, there is a marriage about to happen that will affect health care for persons on Medicare or Medicaid, or both Medicare/Medicaid in ColoPhoto of Patricia Yeager, CEOrado. It is a marriage that could create more barriers to physical and mental healthcare for persons with disabilities or it could create a collaborative system with better outcomes.

I am talking about Colorado’s Medicaid program’s desire, by 2018, to combine into one organization, the physical health services provided by the fee for service Regional Care Collaborative Organizations (Community Health Partners/RCCO7 in the Pikes Peak area) and the managed care Behavioral Health Organization (Aspen Pointe). A fee for service practice means one gets paid for the number of services delivered to the people who are served. A managed care organization means that individual services are to be managed so that they are effective and efficient…no duplicate or unneeded services. Regardless of how you experience one or the other, neither really achieve accessible and usable services for persons with disabilities in the Pikes Peak area. Both systems have physical access problems (are you getting your physical exams sitting up in your chair or without a sign language interpreter?). Both have program access problems (are you getting your prescriptions in a format you can read as a person who is blind or has a reading disability? Do you have an interpreter for counseling sessions or a loop system for those who are hard of hearing?). Both have cultural competency issues (no room for you in the waiting room? Healthcare professionals who roll their eyes when you come in because you take too much time?).

Communities of persons with disabilities have to speak up! Otherwise we die prematurely because of a lack of access to, in, and through the entire medical experience. Colorado’s Medicaid Program is slow to wake up to the needs of its participants with disabilities. There is a reason why we consume more health care services than most…we dread going to any healthcare provider because of the poor service and attitudes so we put it off. Many of us wait until we are very sick and take a ride in an ambulance to the Emergency Department-both are some of the most expensive health care services around. If we can get to the clinic/doctor’s office in a timely manner, receive good preventive care and feel good about the experience, we can live productive lives rather than spending our lives in the ER!

People with disabilities have to speak up! There are several ways to do so. 1) Take part in a survey about your healthcare experiences at You can do so anonymously if you like. 2) Ask your healthcare professional for access. Do they have an exam table you can get onto? How about interpreters for the Deaf? Prescriptions in a format you can understand? Let them know you need this in order to work toward being healthy. Or, 3) you can read and comment on the draft Request for Proposals for a new, local, combined healthcare system in October of this year. The IC will post a link on our website and on our Facebook account; please read and comment to make sure disability access to services, programs, and culturally competent health care professionals are included in the requirements for those who will bid on our healthcare system in 2018. If there is no mention of disability access, we will not have access to medical/mental health services that meet our needs.

Having a disability does not mean you are sick but you do need access to healthcare like everyone else to live your best life. Speak up because your life depends on it!