Colorado lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, have concerns with GOP healthcare plan

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Washington, D.C.-, March 9, 2017 | comments

WASHINGTON — Three days after Republicans introduced their plan to re-do the Affordable Care Act, reaction among members of Colorado’s congressional delegation generally has split along partisan lines — though there’s been a greater range of responses from its GOP lawmakers.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, has said little this week about his opinion of the Republican healthcare plan. But in a telephone town hall meeting on Wednesday, he raised questions about the cost of expanding Medicaid — a program designed for disabled and lower-income residents — while floating the idea of linking coverage to a work requirement.

“I think a work requirement, in terms of able-bodied people, is certainly something that is going to be appropriate,” Tipton said. “But do (I) not underestimate the value, certainly, of Medicaid because you have seen some of the compassion and the need that’s certainly there.”

In general, Tipton said he was “pro repeal of the ACA but that doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for just any replacement bill.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, both Republicans, said Wednesday they had concerns about the package unveiled this week and neither would say whether they would back the proposal as written.

Said Buck in an interview off the U.S. House floor: “I think there are going to be mark-ups and amendments and changes and we’ll see where that ends up. It is more of a free market bill than the Affordable Care Act and so I think that’s a positive but I’m not sure it solves enough of the problems.”

As for Gardner — asked whether he would back the legislation as written — he said he was still “working through it, talking to people.”

Both legislators also said they were skeptical of how it would begin in 2020 to phase out an expansion of Medicaid created under the Affordable Care Act. That expansion has provided an estimated 407,000 Coloradans with health insurance, and Gardner said he still wasn’t sure whether 2020 is the right date to begin cutting off that avenue of insurance.

Buck took a different approach. He questioned whether Congress would have the will to begin shutting down the Medicaid expansion in the heat of a presidential election year.

Buck, a Republican from Windsor, also said he was reviewing the bill to ensure it provided a pathway so that Coloradans with lower incomes could get health insurance.

“There has to be realistic coverage for people who are close to the poverty line,” said Buck, who added not doing so carried a bigger risk. “Because all you are doing then is sending people to the emergency room. And you talk about high cost coming from that point.”

The skepticism comes after a rocky few days for supporters of the GOP healthcare plan. Though it’s gotten some early positive reviews from GOP lawmakers such as U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman of Colorado, hardline conservatives and Democrats have blasted it from two different angles.

That continued during a marathon committee hearing in which U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, took part this week.

She warned that as many as 15 million Americans could lose their health insurance under the legislation – including people in her own life.

“Who are those 10 to 15 million people?” DeGette asked during the hearing. “Is it Laurie Dunklee, my high school classmate, who finally got insurance when she was age 56 through the Medicaid expansion?”

As part of that hearing, DeGette tried to introduce an amendment to the GOP healthcare plan that would remove a provision to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood for a year. It was defeated along a party-line vote.

“Republicans have chosen to score political points with anti-choice extremists,” said DeGette in a statement.

Another Colorado Democrat, Jared Polis of Boulder, was critical of the Republican proposal too. “If this bill passes in its present form, it will increase the cost of insurance for Coloradans and it would also decrease the quality of that insurance,” said Polis, who added he has taken steps to add a public option of healthcare insurance to the GOP healthcare plan.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada, said he was amenable to changes to the Affordable Care Act — but only to a certain degree. “While I’m open to improving the law, I will fight against any effort to roll back the progress we’ve already made,” Perlmutter said in a statement.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado also said he was willing to amend the Affordable Care Act. But he criticized the way Republicans have approached their healthcare plan.

“After having years to prepare a replacement bill, the Republican leadership is rushing committee votes on a poorly drawn plan,” Bennet said in a statement. “This is being done without public input, without hearings, without estimates on costs or premium increases, and without knowing how many people will lose coverage.

Content originally published by the Denver Post on March 9, 2017.
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