Colorado ACEP 2023 Interview: Senator Dylan Roberts

Senator Dylan Roberts
Hometown: Frisco, CO

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legislature?

During law school, I had the chance to intern in the state legislature as a policy analyst for a State Representative. It was during that experience that I saw the state legislature as a place where things actually got done that made the lives of people in Colorado better. Unlike Washington DC, where politics are so divisive and gridlocked, the state legislature was and still is a place where people work together to solve problems.

In 2018, when an opportunity to run to represent communities on Western Slope that I love became available, I decided to take the chance to run to serve and work on some of the challenges my area of the state was facing, including high health insurance costs, an affordable housing crisis, and the need to protect our natural resources and environment.

What surprised you the most about working as a legislator?
Politics is about relationships. It is often not a great speech or masterful bill drafting that is the key to getting a piece of legislation passed – it is more about the work you put in before the vote is taken. This includes working with impacted community members to know personal stories behind a bill, reaching out to colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address their concerns and explain the importance of the policy, and being open to compromise to alleviate challenges. Being effective for your district means working hard to get to know your colleagues, meeting with stakeholders, and being open-minded.

What is the biggest similarity or difference in your career as a State Senator compared to working as a Deputy District Attorney for Eagle County?

There is a certain gravity in the decision-making that happens as both a Deputy District Attorney and a State Senator. Often, the choices you make in both jobs will immediately and directly impact the lives of either one person or a whole community or state of people. As both a State Senator and prosecutor, we are trusted to keep the priorities of our communities top of mind. While there is no way to ever make everyone happy with a certain choice, you must strive to figure out what is best for those you represent, whether it is a victim of crime or a district of 180,000 people. And then you must live with the choices because chances are high that you’ll see folks impacted by your decision – for better or for worse – the next day at the grocery store.

If you could change one thing about healthcare in Colorado, what would it be?

I could list a lot of things here but if I had to choose just one: there is a fundamental inequality in Colorado health care based on geography. The state and insurance industry price insurance plans based on regions, many of my constituents are punished with higher premiums and a lack of choices simply because of where they live since most of the mountain and rural counties, I represent are grouped together in one region. Of course, the cost of delivering health care in my part of the state is higher for a variety of reasons, so this is a complex discussion, but it is hard for me to explain to constituents – and I believe an unfair reality – that they have to pay more because of where they live.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in the legislature?

There are many pieces of legislation I am proud of including writing and passing the first-in-the-nation bill to cap the cost of insulin prices which a dozen or more other states have now replicated, sponsoring the largest single-year investment in affordable housing development, or my multiple bills protecting our state’s water, but my greatest achievement is not actually a single bill. I am most proud that 99% of the bills I have sponsored have received bipartisan support because I strive every day to make politics more civil and always try to find a way to make my legislation supported by as many colleagues as possible because that is how I know it will work for as many Coloradans as possible.

What can emergency medicine do better in regard to advocating for the specialty and our patients?

Get to know your two legislators well. Every single person in the state has a State Senator and a State Representative. If you have not already, figure out who they are and contact them, ask them to coffee or for a phone call, and get to know each other. We really do want to hear from you! Then, when there is a complex or contentious bill that you have an opinion about, it will be so much easier to reach out and share your thoughts and that will carry a lot of weight with us when we are making up our minds on how to vote on that bill.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

Thank you for all that you do. Access to health care is one of the reasons I ran for office, and I know deeply about the challenging, complex, and lifesaving work you all do on a daily basis. While we pass laws to hopefully improve people’s lives, it is all of you who do the hard work of actually doing that on a daily basis and I am so grateful for that.