I am introducing a bill designed to make the insurance claims process easier and more fair for people who have experienced a catastrophic loss in a fire. Sadly, this bill will not help survivors of the Marshall Fire, but it is a step toward greater resiliency in the face of the climate crisis, drier weather, and more fires. The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Bob Rankin-R of Grand County.
I’ve been working on this bill for nearly a year. The problem is some insurance companies do not pay out promptly or fairly to people who have bought and paid for their policies in good faith. This became painfully clear after the East Troublesome Fire, where many claims are unpaid to this day. Claiming coverage for Contents can be a particularly onerous and unfair process. Colorado law requires insurance companies to pay 30% of Contents coverage up front. But from there, some companies won’t pay another cent until their customers inventory and value every individual item they will claim, down to things like socks in a drawer, dog food in the cupboard, and food in the fridge. Not all companies behave this way, and in fact many pay out more than 80% of Contents coverage quickly, without an inventory. My bill mandates that other companies also operate in good faith.
In crafting this legislation, I have worked closely with advocates for the insured like Natascha O’Flaughery and United Policyholders. I’m providing links to information they have published about insurance in the aftermath of the Marshall Fire. Please share these if you know folks who could benefit.
I expect the bill to be introduced in the House soon. You can read more about it in this Colorado Sun article. If you want to give testimony for the bill based on your personal experience, please reach out.
Boulder Town Hall
Please join me next Wednesday, January 26th at 6 pm for a Boulder Virtual Town Hall. Together with Senator Steve Fenberg and Representative Edie Hooton, we will share our upcoming bills and others to watch in 2022. We’ll also answer constituent questions.
Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force
I’m a member of Colorado’s Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force, which has been meeting for months to consider the allocation of $450 million in one-time federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act The Task Force will issue recommendations to the General Assembly in the coming week, with enabling legislation to follow.
The Task Force and its corresponding subpanels have worked to identify the investments and policy changes needed to transform Colorado’s behavioral health system — currently ranked 51st in the nation for adult mental health care.
As a member of the Task Force, I have advocated strongly for more in-patient treatment beds. Lack of residential care is a significant gap in our continuum of care. People with the most serious mental illnesses often cycle in and out of short-term crisis hospital care, getting sicker while generating huge costs to the system. Many are released from hospitals into homelessness with no ongoing treatment plan. Colorado has 10 beds per 100,000 people. The minimum standard to provide effective care is 50 beds per 100,000. The lack of beds has contributed to increases in our homeless population and put a strain on our criminal justice system and our jails. The human cost extends to whole family systems.
I will share the report with you when it’s released, and keep you updated on bill progress throughout the session.
Jail Standards Commission
Colorado is one of only 12 states in the country without uniform operating standards for its county jails. This week I introduced a bill, HB22-1063, to form a commission that will create and update operational standards for Colorado’s county jails. The commission will include sheriffs from every size jail in our state as well as advocates for the incarcerated. It will create more modern and humane jailing practices, a needed step forward for criminal justice reform in Colorado.