The Colorado Medical Society bestowed its “Tip of the Spear” award on Elisabeth Arenales at its annual meeting in Vail last week. Arenales is the Health Program Director for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, where she focuses on public health insurance programs, including Medicaid, and works to preserve, protect, and expand access to healthcare for lower-income Coloradoans. She received the “Tip of the Spear” award for her creation of the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care. She had an idea to create a commission to study health care costs without becoming mired in politics. She approached Sen. Irene Aguilar and Sen. Ellen Roberts with her idea, and they helped gather the former members of the Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission on Healthcare Reform to address the issue. Arenales drafted SB 14-187, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by the governor on May 29, 2014.
Arenales has received many awards in her distinguished career, including the Colorado Bar Association’s Donald Hoagland Award in 2000, which recognizes outstanding leaders in the development and implementation of pro bono representation; the CBA Jacob V. Schaetzel Award in 2005, which honors attorneys or non-attorneys whose commitment, energy, and innovative approaches to the delivery of legal services serve as models for others in the community, for her work on the Taylor Ranch case; and the Colorado Lawyers Committee Award in 2004 for her work representing individuals in cases involving the state’s computer benefits system. Arenales also received the Colorado Health Foundation’s distinguished John K. Iglehart Award for Leadership in Health Policy this summer for her continuing efforts to ensure access to healthcare for lower-income Coloradoans. Other awards include the University of Colorado Law School Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement, Trial Lawyer of the Year from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, and the Community Health Leader designation from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Prior to her work at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Arenales was a staff attorney for the Colorado Lawyers Committee, and she worked for a year in the San Luis Valley organizing plaintiffs for the Taylor Ranch litigation. She is the Board Chair of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, and is also one of the founders of CCHI. She serves on the advisory committee for Colorado Covering Kids and Families, the advisory board of Medicaid Ombudsmen for Managed Care, and the advisory board of Family Voices Colorado. Arenales received her undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania, and her law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law, where she was a member of the Order of the Coif.
Congratulations to Arenales for receiving the Tip of the Spear Award, and for her dedication to helping lower income Coloradoans access health care.