New State Report Identifies Substantial Maternal Health Disparities and Invites Partnerships to Address Them

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Report highlights areas of opportunity to improve health outcomes for Colorado parents and newborns


Sept. 14, 2021

Media Contact
Marc Williams
720-626-0801 (c)

Denver, CO - Today, the Department of Health Care Policy & Financing (the Department) released a first-of-its-kind report titled the Health First Colorado Maternity Report. Health First Colorado, Colorado’s Medicaid program, is a key player in the lives of both expectant parents and their children as it is the primary source of health care coverage for more than 40% of births in the state. Health First Colorado covered the delivery of nearly 27,000 births in 2019 and provided prenatal care, delivery, and postnatal services to expectant parents across the state. 

The report identifies numerous data points and key findings impacting maternal care and outcomes among Health First Colorado members ranging from the importance of prenatal and behavioral health care to a number of risk factors leading to poor outcomes. A few examples include: 

  • Among members who smoked during pregnancy, 16.2% delivered a low birth weight baby versus 9.7% among nonsmokers.
  • 19.3% of pregnant members with preexisting diabetes had premature deliveries versus 9.9% of pregnant members without preexisting diabetes.
  • 14% of Black pregnant members were diagnosed with high blood pressure which was double that of any other race. 
  • White pregnant Medicaid members were three times more likely to smoke than Hispanic pregnant members.
  • Health First Colorado covered more than 61% of the births in 16 counties, primarily in southern Colorado.

The Department has invested in enhanced benefits and services for pregnant and birthing parents to improve health outcomes, such as less restrictive income eligibility requirements, a wide variety of state-sponsored programs including Prenatal Plus and Special Connections, and creative reimbursement strategies for programs and providers like Nurse-Family Partnership. Given that preterm birth rates continue to rise and racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes persist, a broad selection of initiatives will be required to improve health outcomes and change the current state and national trajectory.  

“Covering more than 40% of births in Colorado, our Department is committed to improving health outcomes for newborns and people giving birth,” said Kim Bimestefer, executive director for the Department. “This report identifies several opportunities where we can partner with care providers, advocates, policymakers, and Coloradans to do just that.”

The Department will review the new report and host an expert panel discussion at a virtual event on Sept. 15 from 1 - 2:30 p.m. 

State Medicaid Director Tracy Johnson and other Department leaders will elaborate on the report findings, highlighting collaborative work to advance health equity, and the innovative programs and reimbursement strategies elevating this effort. The panel will include policymakers, providers, advocates, and stakeholders.

“These maternal health disparities are unacceptable,” said Medicaid Director Tracy Johnson. “This report creates the foundation to address that reality, save lives, and improve health outcomes.”

The Department plans on updating and publishing an annual report on birth outcomes. 

For more information and to access other reports published by the Department of Health Care Policy & Financing visit



About the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing: The Department administers Health First Colorado (Colorado's Medicaid program), Child Health Plan Plus, and other programs for Coloradans who qualify. For more information about the Department, please visit