A state Senate committee rejected a Democrat-sponsored bill aimed at increasing inspections and improving safety conditions at Medicaid-funded host homes for people with developmental disabilities.
“These are the folks that we’re there to protect, and we failed in our duty,” said Sen. Irene Aguilar (D- Denver), a co-sponsor of the bill.
The bill failed along party lines with three Republicans voting no and two Democrats voting yes. It previously passed the state House of Representatives, 34-29.
“I think there are a lot of times when there is political disagreement about overreach of the government, but I think when you’re talking about one of the most vulnerable populations that we take responsibility for, this was a bare minimum that we could’ve done,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said she hoped the issue would be considered again next session. The current legislative session ends May 9th.
“My sense on this is there is probably some work to be done,” said Sen. Owen Hill (R- El Paso), before announcing his no vote Wednesday night.
The bill would have increased host home inspections and broadened the authority of the state’s Health Care Policy and Financing department, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program.
A HCPF representative testified Wednesday that the bill would have improved the department’s ability to track host home providers and allow for “some punitive action for problematic providers.”
A Rocky Mountain PBS investigation found various cases of mistreatment within the host home system including negligence that resulted in the death of Tanya Bell, who couldn’t escape from a fire in her wheelchair.
“Given the bill died just last night, the Department will need time to consider our next steps,” said Marc Williams, a spokesperson for HCPF. “We remain committed to ensuring a higher standard of oversight and assurance of health, safety, and welfare for our members. We anticipate having further conversations with our stakeholders around this service.”
"I am optimistic that HCPF will work to implement improvements within the scope of the current regulations; and will seek input on improvements from the fire service," said Kevin Ferry, the Arvada Fire Marshal who investigated the fire that killed Bell.
Ferry testified in both chambers of the legislature and provided input on the bill during a series of stakeholder meetings in early 2018.