For the last two sessions of the Colorado legislature, the partisan battle over the state’s “Hospital Provider Fee” has been a major flashpoint. Passed in 2009 during a budget shortfall, the fee was negotiated with Colorado hospitals in order to obtain federal matching funds under Medicaid to expand health coverage, and reduce cost shifting in emergency rooms for unreimbursed services.
But naturally, anything involving the words “fee” and “health care” falls into a meat grinder of spin from the conservative right who lambasted the provider fee as a “bed tax” on hospital stays. When state revenues began to recover, the “fee” collected in hospitals started running into the revenue limits under TABOR that would force the state to refund money that otherwise could go to schools and roads. Removing the fee from the TABOR limits would be a relatively easy statutory fix in the legislature.
The only problem being that Republicans won control of the state Senate in 2014.
Even though traditionally Republican interests in the business community lined up in a big way for the budgetary fix, conservative hardliners and the Koch-funded pressure group Americans for Prosperity locked down and the fee died in a Senate committee, despite bipartisan support in the state House. Senate President Bill Cadman went so far as to publicly thank Americans for Prosperity in the middle of the budget fight.
But as the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports, the business community who supported the hospital provider fee fix are still backing the Republicans who shafted them:
That’s why some Democrats and liberal-leaning organizations were surprised when the Senate Majority Fund — which has gotten much of its $2.7 million in contributions from business groups — put out mailers blasting Democrats who have supported that effort as wanting to subvert TABOR. And Democrats who tout themselves as being pro-business — such as former state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, who is in a tight race to reclaim her old Arvada-area seat from Republican Sen. Laura Woods — have touted that they will back any similar bills in 2017 to help out roads and schools…
Just since Oct. 17, the Senate Majority Fund has raised more than $372,000, including contributions of $70,000 from Colorado Concern and $3,500 from the political action committee of the Colorado Hospital Association — groups that have supported the hospital-fee reclassification. And it is spending money to help candidates Woods and state Rep. Kevin Priola, who is seeking an open Democratic-held Senate seat, even though both have said they want to find ways other than the hospital-provider fee bill to get money to roads.
But Furman said there is much more at stake in this election than one particular funding bill. And that’s why Republican control of the Senate is important even to groups who disagree with the GOP on that issue. [Pols emphasis]
The admission from the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry’s (CACI) Loren Furman to Ed Sealover is a remarkable moment of candor in the political world. For all the “intense pressure” Bill Cadman was said to experience from his friends in the business community to see reason on the hospital provider fee fix, there is no sign of it where it would matter most. For lobbyists who pride themselves on their ability to whip support for tough votes, Republicans have proof now that they can always call their bluff. As for Democrats, why should they care the next time the business groups want something?
That’s the takeaway lesson for future legislatures–and it won’t help CACI get their agenda passed.
Assuming that’s even what matters to them.