For undocumented immigrants in Colorado and all over the country, health care is practically unattainable due to cost barriers and citizenship requirements for government-funded programs.

A trailblazing bill being considered by Colorado lawmakers would address those barriers by offering undocumented immigrants contraceptive coverage through the state’s Medicaid program.

If it passes, Colorado would become one of just a few states that use state Medicaid dollars to offer contraceptives to undocumented populations.

The bill also would ensure that Medicaid patients can get a full year’s supply of contraceptives on their first visit, which has been shown to lead to more consistent use and dramatically reduce unplanned pregnancies.

“Immigration status should not be a barrier,” said Karla Gonzales Garcia, Policy Director for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Our families live here. Our families contribute to society. They are the workforce in many of the rural communities in our state.” 

Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid in Colorado, except for emergency care during pregnancy for delivery and several weeks postpartum. Garcia says she hopes that this bill will be a stepping stone toward offering a range of reproductive health services to undocumented people through Colorado’s Medicaid program.

Garcia emphasized that immigrants living in rural communities in particular have very limited options that are both affordable and convenient. Community health centers funded by Title X, the government assistance program for family planning care, do not discriminate based on immigration status, but Garcia said that those clinics don’t adequately serve the state’s “contraceptive deserts.”

The bill cleared its first hurdle in the legislature late last month after passing out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee.

Read more coverage of the bill, including testimony from undocumented immigrants in Colorado, in my recent article here in Rewire News.