U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to waive requirements hampering Colorado’s health care efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a March 25 letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the lawmakers asked for a swift review of the state’s application for a 1135 waiver, which would give Colorado’s Medicaid program more flexibility to serve Coloradans during the crisis.

Their letter follows a Jan. 23 announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that it will grant 11 other states 1135 waivers.

“On March 24, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, the State’s Single State Medicaid agency, submitted an 1135 waiver, designed to reduce administrative burdens on: clients seeking access to care; on the state’s Medicaid program; and, on providers seeking to participate in Medicaid,” the Colorado delegation wrote.

“This three-pronged approach will free up valuable state resources during a time when, more than ever, Coloradans need seamless access to care and the state needs to devote as many resources as possible to the COVID-19 response. …

“On behalf of our constituents, we urge HHS to complete full and fair consideration of Colorado’s 1135 waiver application in the most expeditious manner possible.”

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U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Ken Buck (R-CO), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Jason Crow (D-CO), and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) also signed the letter to HHS.

Bennet also addressed the health crisis on the Senate floor on Monday, urging President Donald Trump to “level with the American people about the critical shortages of medical supplies and equipment needed” to fight the novel coronavirus.

“The administration hasn’t taken this crisis seriously enough from the beginning,” Bennet said in his speech. “And when it comes to the equipment that people on the front line need, the ammunition — to use their words — that the people on the front line need, they’re being ignored or dismissed with a bunch of happy talk about how we’re going to solve this problem. If we can even admit that there is a problem. …

“We are failing, Mr. President. We are failing to address the seriousness of the public health crisis this country is facing, and we are going to rue the day that we said it was the hospitals’ problem to solve. That it was the governors’ problems to solve. That it was the states’ problems to solve. …

“It cannot be one hospital at a time, one state at a time, or one business at a time. That won’t work. It’s not a strategy,” he added. “In fact, it’s making matters worse. Because not only are we not fixing the supply chain but the pricing is getting completely distorted, and people are competing with an incredibly scarce amount of goods. This is not a substitute, Mr. President, for a coherent national strategy to figure out how we’re going to meet the critical supply shortages across the country.”

Bennet called on the administration to outline a plan to mobilize private industry to meet the shortages.

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