What Colorado lawmakers are saying about the Senate draft health care bill

Colorado Democrats roundly condemned the bill, while Cory Gardner suggested that criticism now is based as much on partisanship as on substance.

A rally in support of Planned Parenthood at Skyline Park, Feb. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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A rally in support of Planned Parenthood at Skyline Park, Feb. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) rally; planned parenthood; abortion; protest; copolitics; skyline park; denver; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado
A rally in support of Planned Parenthood at Skyline Park in front of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office, Feb. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Republicans in the U.S. Senate released a “discussion draft” of a health care bill that analysts are describing as substantially similar to the House version passed earlier this year. The Better Care Reconciliation Act could come up for a vote as early as next week, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants a vote before senators break for the July 4 recess.

The bill would phase out the Medicaid expansion, change Medicaid to a per-capita cap program, repeal the individual mandate, cut taxes for the wealthy and cut funding for Planned Parenthood. It provides greater subsidies to buy insurance than the House version of the bill but nonetheless reduces subsidies compared to current law — and fewer people would be eligible at all.

The impacts locally could be huge, with analysts estimating the state could need to come up with as much as $1 billion a year to maintain Medicaid enrollment levels and reimbursement rates. Meanwhile, it’s not clear that the bill would do much to bring down premiums, which has been one of the chief complaints about the Affordable Care Act.

Colorado Democrats roundly condemned the bill, while Cory Gardner, the state’s Republican senator, asked for time to read it first and suggested that criticism now is based as much on partisanship as on the substance of the bill. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes and still pass the bill — and the math is already hard on that.

Here’s what Colorado lawmakers have said so far:


John Hickenlooper. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Gov. John Hickenlooper

Party: Democrat

Basically: Hickenlooper has been sounding alarms for months about the potential impact of Republican health care legislation. As a state that participates in the Medicaid expansion and already faces a tight budget situation, the effects could be significant.

From the statement: “The Senate’s health care bill, like the House bill, will take Colorado backward. It makes even deeper cuts to health care for the most vulnerable and shifts the costs onto hard working middle-class Coloradans. It’s no surprise that a bill drafted in secret, without public hearings and scrutiny, and planned for a rushed vote within days will hurt Coloradans. We urge Senators Gardner and Bennet to vote no on this flawed bill.”


Cory Gardner. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
(Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Sen. Michael Bennet

Party: Democrat

Basically: Like all the Democrats in Colorado’s congressional delegation, Bennet has been a vocal critic of Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Nothing in the Senate version of the bill has changed that.

From the statement: “Coloradans want us to fix and improve our health care system. You couldn’t design a bill less responsive to what the opponents of Obamacare have said they want than the bill that recently passed the House of Representatives. The Senate proposal is just as bad, if not worse, than that legislation because it decreases coverage and increases costs instead of expanding quality and affordable health care. Coloradans deserve a full debate and an open process when it comes to reforming something that affects one-sixth of our economy. Instead of writing a bill in secret and rushing to pass it before an arbitrary deadline, we should work in a bipartisan and transparent way to provide more predictability, affordability, and transparency to give Coloradans the health care system they deserve.”


Cory Gardner. (Jessica Taves for Denverite)
(Jessica Taves for Denverite)

Sen. Cory Gardner

Party: Republican

Basically: Gardner had been one of four Senate Republicans expressing concerns that repeal efforts not harm those covered by Medicaid, but in more recent coverage from the national political press, his name hasn’t been mentioned in that context. Just yesterday, he told ABC7’s Blair Miller that he had not read the draft bill, even though he was on one of the working groups supposedly contributing to the discussion. Thursday, he called for a debate on the merits of the bill, which are yet to be determined.

From the statement: “This is the first I’ve viewed the legislation so I am beginning to carefully review it as we continue to look at ways to rescue Colorado from the continued negative impacts of the Affordable Care Act on our healthcare system. It’s frustrating that instead of actually reviewing the legislative text some have decided to immediately oppose the bill before it was even introduced. This deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction.”

Gardner told the Denver Post the vote should not be rushed: “If we can have opportunities to make the bill better, then by all means let’s take every chance and (all the) time we can. I would be OK with spending our entire recess here.”


Diana DeGette. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rep. Diana DeGette (Denver)

Party: Democrat

Basically: DeGette voted no on the House version of this bill, and she said the Senate version is even worse.

From the statement: “We already know that the House version, on which the Senate’s bill is based, would have deprived 23 million people of care during the next decade, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Just like its House counterpart, the Senate bill will punish the poor and middle class by ripping away vital care while giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

“Offering a bill like this, after scheming over it in secret backrooms with no input from Democrats or even many Republicans, is not only poor policy, it’s a disservice to the public. Both parties should be working together to improve the ACA. I’ve said this to my Republican counterparts who have approached me on this matter during the past year, and I stand ready to improve the ACA when they’re done trying to dismantle it.”

 


Jared Polis. (Sara Hertwig for Denverite)
(Sara Hertwig for Denverite)

Rep. Jared Polis (Boulder)

Party: Democrat

Basically: Polis is one of two Colorado reps running for governor, and one of them could have to deal with the fallout of whatever passes. Polis hates this bill.

From the statement: In a series of tweets, Polis didn’t mince words.


Scott Tipton. (U.S. House/Public Domain)
(U.S. House/Public Domain)

Scott Tipton (Western Colorado)

Party: Republican

Basically: He voted in favor of the House version of the bill.

From the statement: No statement yet.


Ken Buck. (U.S. House/Public Domain)
(U.S. House/Public Domain)

Ken Buck (Greeley and eastern plains)

Party: Republican

Basically: He voted for the House version of this bill and supports the general thrust of Republican efforts.

From the statement: “The text released today by the Senate is another step in a process to rescue our healthcare system from Obamacare. This version may look different than the final bill that passes their chamber. I look forward to reviewing the Senate bill once their version is complete, but I hope the final language focuses on driving down the cost of insurance and protecting the most vulnerable.”


Doug Lamborn. (U.S. House/Public Domain)
(U.S. House/Public Domain)

Doug Lamborn (Colorado Springs)

Party: Republican

Basically: Yep. He also voted in favor of the House version.

From the statement: No statement yet.


Mike Coffman. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Mike Coffman (Aurora)

Party: Republican

Basically: Coffman previously praised the idea of changing Medicaid to block grants, but he was the only Colorado Republican to vote against the House version of the bill.

From the statement: A spokesman said he’s still reviewing the bill, and his ultimate position will depend on the details of the version that passes the Senate and returns to the House.


Ed Perlmutter. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Ed Perlmutter (Lakewood)

Party: Democrat

Basically: Perlmutter’s also running for governor, and he also hates this bill.

From the statement: “A small group of Senate Republicans worked for weeks in secrecy only to unveil a disastrous plan much like the House version’s repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. Under these plans millions of Coloradans are at risk of losing their health care. This process is creating uncertainty in the marketplace and it places our economy at risk. Furthermore, the Senate Republican plan devastates the Medicaid program and allows states to strip essential health coverage for many hardworking Coloradans.  This process is ridiculous, and the health care bill is even worse.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.