ICYMI: Hospitals Making Big Bucks at Your Expense

Hospital executives

We’ve noted at length in this space that creating a “public option” for health care in Colorado will be perhaps the biggest fight of the 2020 legislative session. Governor Jared Polis has made a “public option” a priority for his administration (check out this interview with Polis for more detail), and the health care industry is already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads and direct mail complaints in an effort to get ahead of the debate and sway public opinion.

The health care industry and “Big Hospital” (also known as the Colorado Hospital Association) have a tough task ahead of them; recent polling shows strong support for a “public option” in Colorado, and a new study released last week examines just how much Coloradans are getting gouged by the health care industry. As The Denver Post reported on Thursday:

Despite money from the state to make up for funding shortfalls and increases in Medicaid payment rates, hospitals — not the providers — are making billions in profits while forcing patients to pay more, according to a report released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

…The report argues that hospitals are facing less of a shortfall than they did a decade ago because fewer people are uninsured and the state has increased Medicaid reimbursement rates and created other mechanisms to fund shortfalls. Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said the state expected hospitals to stop shifting so much of their costs onto people with private insurance as their shortfall went down, but instead they’ve increased spending on executives and middle men.

The shiniest numbers in the state report show that hospital profits nearly tripled in the last decade, rising from an average of $538 per patient in 2009 to $1,518 in 2018. The Colorado Hospital Association responded to these figures with some carefully-ordered but generally meaningless words:

The hospital association said the profits the state cited don’t into account some of their costs, like taxes and the value of time spent training medical residents. It also attributed much of the increase in profitability to a strong economy and to improvements in vulnerable hospitals’ finances.

“(Profit) margin improvement is also due to hospitals working to control their costs as they work to address affordability and operate during a time of great uncertainty,” the statement said.

The health care industry doesn’t have a lot to say here in part because other studies have come to similar conclusions; a separate report from the Health Care Cost Institute showed prices for inpatient hospital services in Denver and Colorado Springs far outpacing nationwide increases.

If the Colorado Hospital Association plans to keep on yammering about “profit margin improvement” while regular Coloradans are discussing the fact that they can’t afford health care, the “public option” debate may be more one-sided than anyone could have predicted.

Allard: Gardner Doing ‘Right Thing’ on Impeachment

(Better with a laugh track – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Sen. Wayne Allard (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner

Colorado Republican Wayne Allard, who served in the U.S. Senate during the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, says Sen. Cory Gardner, a fellow Republican, is doing the “right thing” by holding off on his impeachment decision.

Gardner can “explain why he voted one way or the other” after he casts his vote, said Allard.

Gardner, who once worked for Allard, faces “a lot of misinformation out there,” as he decides how to vote on the impeachment of Trump, and he’ll have to “sift through that,” Allard told the Colorado Times Recorder Friday.

“I think Senator Gardner is doing the right thing to hold off until he’s got the facts in hand, and then he can cast his vote and explain why he voted one way or the other,” said Allard.

Unlike Gardner, who’s been silent on impeachment to the point of avoiding reporters who are chasing him through the halls and elevators of Congress, Allard published an impeachment diary in the Rocky Mountain News at the time. In multiple entries, Allard commented on all facets of the trial.

Denver Post columnist and ProgressNow Colorado director Ian Silverri lauded Allard’s impeachment diary as a “terrific time-capsule of insights into the mind of a Republican Senator deliberating whether to vote to convict a president in real-time.”

Gardner’s critics insist that the Gardner, who’s up for re-election in November, should at least take questions about the impeachment process, including queries about key procedural questions, like whether he wants to hear from former Trump adviser John Bolton.

In Friday’s inerview, Allard recalled listening to the proceedings and deciding that there was “no doubt that Clinton perjured himself.” And this was what “drove” his decision to convict, Allard said, not concerns about obstruction of justice.

(more…)

Gardner’s Votes to Privatize Medicare under Scrutiny in Wake of Trump’s Comments


(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner standing behind President Donald Trump.

In the wake of Trump’s comments last week that he’s willing to “look” at federal spending on entitlements, a progressive group is putting renewed scrutiny on U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) stance on Medicare and Social Security, including Gardner’s statement during his last Senate race that he would vote in the Senate to privatize Medicare, as he’d voted to do during his House tenure.

“At some point they will be,” Trump said, when asked if entitlements were on his agenda. “At the right time, we will take a look at that.”

Specifically, Trump stated his willingness to look at curbing Medicare spending.

“When you take a closer look at the records of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans, the takeaway is clear: Donald Trump just made their reelections infinitely harder,” said Zach Hudson, a spokesman for American Bridge in a news release, spotlighting Gardner, among other senators. “Their long track records of voting to cut Medicare and Social Security are now fair game and will receive renewed scrutiny, and that’s a recipe for disaster for these incumbent Senators.”

In the news release, Hudson pointed to a series of votes, like this one, by Gardner during his four years in the U.S. House, from 2010 to 2014, for the so-called Ryan budget, which would have, among other things, privatized Medicare. Hudson also listed multiple votes, like this one, by Gardner to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare and Social Security, even though he’d once promised not to do so.

In his comments last week, Trump did not specify how he’d address Medicare spending.

Asked during his 2014 senate race against Democrat Mark Udall if he would vote again in the U.S. Senate for the “Ryan Budget,” Gardner signaled his willingness to do so. And he offered a strong defense of his Ryan-budget vote.

“Well, I would vote for a bill [Ryan budget] that allows us to balance the budget, that protects Medicare, and that’s what I did, Senator Udall, was voted for a bill that protects Medicare, that protects retirees and their social safety nets,” Gardner said on C-Span.

This isn’t surprising coming from Gardner, who made no secret of his admiration for Ryan himself.

“This is a guy [Ryan] who understands the budget and the economy perhaps better than anybody other than Mitt Romney,” Gardner once said.

A call to Gardner’s office, seeking a reaction to Trump’s comments, was not returned.

John Bolton: Cory Gardner’s (Latest) Moment of Truth


The tipping point?

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton (no relation we assume) reports on the latest bombshell to explode in the faces of Republican Senators hoping to put the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump to bed without witnesses or evidence which has emerged since the House passed the articles of impeachment last month:

The Senate was headed into the second week of the trial facing a pivotal vote on the subject, and it looked like Democrats would almost certainly not win the four GOP votes needed to subpoena new witnesses.

But that was before a report Sunday night in The New York Times.

The report, based on an unpublished manuscript by Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, said Bolton in his forthcoming book claims the president tied $391 million in aid to Ukraine to his requests for that country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Democrats immediately pounced on the news, with the Democratic impeachment managers saying there was no excuse for GOP senators not to vote for witnesses.

Ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton’s frank disclosure that Trump deliberately and personally linked the release of aid to Ukraine with the investigation of Trump’s political opponents is consistent with the testimony of so many other witnesses during the House investigation. But to have the heart of the first article of impeachment against Trump validated by a former member of Trump’s Cabinet is, or at least would be at any other time in history, game-changing–the equivalent of the “smoking gun” Watergate tape that surfaced in early August of 1974 and sank Richard Nixon’s presidency in a matter of days.

Senate Republicans today are reportedly in chaos as they try to get a handle on this latest damning news. A press conference by a number of GOP Senators firmly in Trump’s camp was cancelled this morning, and we’re waiting for statements about Bolton to start trickling out. For Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, for whom every jot and tittle of this impeachment trial is a perilous choice of evils, what to do about Bolton is even more difficult a question. Gardner is one of a small group of GOP Senators singled out by Bolton’s political action committee for supporting a “a strong, clear, and dependable U.S. national security policy.” Back in 2014 when Gardner was running for his Senate seat, he welcomed Bolton’s endorsement with words that are now back to haunt him:

I’m excited that Ambassador Bolton has endorsed my campaign and appreciate his confidence in my message to Coloradans. We share a commitment to freedom and a desire to ensure America is respected throughout the world. As crises in the Middle East and Ukraine deepen, [Pols emphasis] we need strong leadership at home to prepare us for the further global challenges that lie ahead.

Well folks, it does appear that the crisis in Ukraine has deepened. And John Bolton is ready to talk.

How can Cory Gardner possibly vote to not allow him?

Crow Steals The Show; Trial of Cory Gardner’s Life Begins



Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

This morning, impeachment manager Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora appeared on CBS’ Face The Nation, where he was questioned about whining complaints from supposedly “swing” Republican Senators–incensed over fellow manager Rep. Adam Schiff reading a CBS News report stating that GOP Senators were warned their heads would (metaphorically we hope) wind up “on a pike” if they voted against the President. Vox covered this latest round of faux outrage yesterday:

After lawmakers left the trial, several continued to voice their concerns. “I thought he was doing fine with moral courage until he got to the head on a pike. That’s where he lost me,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “Nothing like going through three days of frustration and then cap it off with an insult,” said Sen. James Lankford. “He has basically offended every Republican senator in there tonight,” added Sen. John Barrasso.

Even though Rep. Schiff said that he hoped the allegation in the CBS story was not true, apparently the mere suggestion that the Trump administration would have made such a statement–which of course would not have been at all out of character–was enough to make Republican Senators howl with indignation. But as Crow picks up the story on Face The Nation today, do hurt feelings matter more than Senator’s constitutional obligations?

Seriously?

“This isn’t about how people are feeling about this issue,” Crow told “Face the Nation.” “Everybody sitting in that chamber has taken an oath to be an impartial juror.” [Pols emphasis]

Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are considered critical votes in the debate over calling witnesses, have criticized impeachment managers Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler for portions of their presentations…

However, Crow said he didn’t believe the impeachment managers had “overplayed” their hand. While he “can’t read people’s minds,” he said he hoped Republicans would vote to call allow deliberations over witnesses.

“The president deserves a fair trial. The American people deserve a fair trial. And the senators who are going to have to make a really important decision here in the coming days need to have all the evidence and the full picture in front of them,” Crow said.

Over the last few days, House impeachment managers have rained historic fire on the Trump administration, making a compelling case that the President should be removed from office for manipulating foreign policy for domestic political benefit–and then obstructing Congress’ investigation into his actions. The GOP’s interim response has been that the presentation was “boring” old evidence they’ve already seen from the House proceedings–but after Sen. Cory Gardner and Senate Republicans voted repeatedly to block new evidence from being introduced that argument is ludicrous. There doesn’t even appear to be much desire to refute the facts of the case against Trump at this point, let alone justify the GOP’s contradictory position of complaining about “boring old evidence” while voting against considering new evidence.

The powerful indictment of Trump delivered by Schiff, Crow, and the rest of the impeachment managers last week isn’t going to be derailed by lame Republican complaints about a news report that few if anyone even find implausible. For Sen. Gardner, there’s just nothing to work with in this latest weak sauce of a defense, and that’s exactly what Rep. Crow drove home today on Face The Nation. If Gardner, who voted to exclude the new evidence Republicans disingenuously now complain isn’t being presented continues to stick to this untenably contradictory party line, he will pay dearly in November when Colorado voters render their own verdict.

At some level, we believe Gardner is aware of this. Gardner is seeing the same poll numbers that Democrats see. His actions in the coming week could tell an important story: whether Gardner still has the will to fight the most uphill U.S. Senate battle of 2020, or whether he is already resigned to the fate the polls forecast.

Steven Mnuchin: Why The Kids Hate Politics


SUNDAY UPDATE: A little awkward around the Mnuchin dinner table today, as Politico reports:

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s wife on Saturday appeared to publicly break with her husband over support for Greta Thunberg’s climate change activism.

“I stand with Greta on this issue. (I don’t have a degree in economics either),” actress Louise Linton wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post after Mnuchin chided the 17-year-old’s call for governments to end their support of fossil fuels at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying she should attend college and study economics…

“We need to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels,” she wrote. “Keep up the fight @gretathunberg.”

Steven Mnuchin says “very helpful dear, thank you.”

—–

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right).

ABC News reporting from Davos Switzerland, where U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is hard at work setting the Republican Party’s reputation with the kids back to the stone age:

As an executive producer of the last Mad Max movie, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin might have been interested in the apocalyptic climate warnings of Greta Thunberg.

Instead, he took a personal swipe at the 17-year-old, saying she was in no position to give advice on climate change because she hasn’t been to college yet…

“Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I’m confused,” he said. Then following a brief pause, he said it was “a joke.”

“After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us,” he concluded.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been driving white dudes over 5o like Steve Mnuchin to an unusual degree of distraction with her impertinence on the matter of human-caused climate change since coming on the scene in 2018 with a high school protest against climate change that went viral, responded with rightful impertinence:

Which makes sense, since climate science is properly the domain of climate scientists, not economists! In fact this telling mistake helps explain why the will to take action on the issue is nonexistent in the Trump administration. We need scientists informing environmental policy, and instead we have guys like Steve Mnuchin.

In short, Mnuchin just proved Greta Thunberg’s point.

Tipton, Gardner Celebrate “Dirty Water Act”


Ricardo Lopez Jr. of the Pueblo Chieftain reports:

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaces the Waters of the United States Act approved by the Obama administration in 2015.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis immediately denounced the move, calling it a plan “to gut federal clean water protections.”

The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters…

“In Colorado, we value our clean water. Our rivers, streams, and lakes serve as the lifeblood of our communities and help support our thriving outdoor and agriculture industries,” Polis said Thursday. “Our administration will continue to reject attempts by the Trump administration to gut proven ways to protect our health and environment.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb:

Federal agencies on Thursday finalized a new clean-water rule that supporters including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton say provides much-needed regulatory certainty.

But opponents, including the administration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, say it will result in the weakest protections since the passage of the Clean Water Act nearly a half a century ago…

Last April, the Polis administration and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted joint comments on the rule proposal that was finalized this week. Their letter said that as with many western states, the large majority of Colorado’s stream miles are intermittent or ephemeral. [Pols emphasis] The state said the proposal would shrink federal jurisdiction far below guidance issued in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration “to a smaller number of Colorado waters” than what presidential administrations have required since the Clean Water Act’s passage. While many ephemeral waters aren’t jurisdictional under the 2008 guidance, the new rule categorically excludes them from jurisdiction, “regardless of their connection to downstream waters,” the state wrote.

Although the new rule is intended to resolve “uncertainty” over the extent of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction, meaning continued special-interest grumbling and court challenges since the Obama administration passed the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule, this rollback is particularly bad for arid Western states. The seasonality of precipitation and overall scarcity of water here compared to states east of the “20 inch isohyet” means many ephemeral waterways which most certainly can contribute to water pollution in “navigable” bodies of water covered by the Act will lose their federal protection.

It’s a classic case of choosing economic interests over environmental protection, and it works against both Rep. Scott Tipton’s and Sen. Cory Gardner’s claims to be different from other Republicans on conservation–or at least attuned to how these issues differ in the state they represent from other regions of the country. The only people this new rule should make happy are those who benefit financially from being able to pollute small bodies of water with impunity.

And it’s hard to imagine that being a majority of Colorado voters.

Another Painful Elevator Escape For Cory Gardner


CNN’s Manu Raju is the latest reporter in Washington to make a run at the nation’s most elusive U.S. Senator, Cory Gardner of Colorado–and in the few literal seconds they had together, Gardner actually revealed quite a bit about where he stands in the ongoing impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.

That is, with Trump:

The key thing to note here that Gardner is committing only to consider the testimony from “witnesses that we’ve heard from in the House”–not any of the damning new evidence that emerged since the House passed the articles of impeachment, and not even the testimony being freely offered by potentially explosive witnesses like ex-National Security Adviser and alleged friend of Cory John Bolton. For anyone trying to do the math to get Democrats to a majority needed to introduce new witnesses and evidence now or later in the trial, this is a strong signal that Gardner will not be breaking ranks with the President.

And it’s not surprising anyone in the know:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

At the same time, Gardner’s continuing refusal to take a concrete position even as he votes with the President is politically self-destructive in its own right. Although this time Gardner had the mercy of a closing elevator door, he’s already become a nationwide metaphor for the total inability of Republican Senators to conduct effective oversight of their own President–or even answer the most basic questions about the case against him.

Yesterday, GOP Senators were told bluntly: “vote against the President and your head will be on a pike.” For Cory Gardner, on trial for his future as much as Trump himself, the doublespeak that served him so well winning statewide office has run head-first into the reality of who he truly serves–and it is hurting him now worse than saying nothing at all.

It’s just too easy to read between the lines.

Friday Open Thread


“To survive it is often necessary to fight and to fight you have to dirty yourself.”

–George Orwell

Education Secretary DeVos Compares Abortion To Slavery

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE 3: Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has offered to educate Secretary of Education DeVos:

UPDATE 2: The Washington Post has also noticed.

UPDATE: This story has been picked up by Politico: DeVos compares abortion rights debate to slavery.

This story, which originally appeared in the Colorado Times Recorder, was written by Gabriella Novello.

WASHINGTON DC — Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos weighed in on a host of issues during the Colorado Christian University’s annual president’s dinner Wednesday night at the Museum of the Bible, at one point drawing comparisons of the abortion rights debate to the ending of slavery.

“[Former President Abraham Lincoln] too contended with the pro-choice arguments of his day. They suggested that a state’s choice to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it,” DeVos told the crowd. “Well, President Lincoln reminded those pro-choicers [Pols Emphasis] that is a vast portion of the American people that do not look upon that matter as being this very little thing. They look upon it as a vast moral evil.”

DeVos speaking at Colorado Christian University’s annual dinner in D.C. (bottom row, center), just below CCU Centennial Institute President Jeff Hunt

DeVos called out the “irony” of supporting a woman’s choice to have an abortion but not for mothers who want to enroll their children in nontraditional public schools, receiving a vocal laugh and round of applause.

“There are many in the pro-life movement who heroically work to make abortion unconstitutional,” DeVos said. “Tonight, let’s talk about making it unthinkable.”

A graduate of Christian University, DeVos also weighed in on the oral arguments made earlier Wednesday to the Supreme Court over whether states can prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding aid to religious institutions. The Montana legislature approved a tax-credit program in 2015 that allowed families to offset the cost of college tuition, but that violated the state’s constitution and the state’s Supreme Court struck it down.

That case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, could provide answers to the years-long debate over whether public funds can be used for private schools. The Trump administration submitted a brief in favor of the plaintiff, and DeVos attended the hour-long oral arguments.

“We are especially eager for the Supreme Court to put an end to the last acceptable prejudice made manifest in the bigoted Blaine amendments,” DeVos said, which she argued denies students the freedom to pursue a faith-based education.

During a Q&A session led by conservative radio host Hew Hewitt, DeVos contended that the aid empowers low-income families to “make the choices for their kids that match their values or a better fit their assigned schools.” When DeVos left the courtroom Wednesday morning, she said she was encouraged, and it was a “thrill” to be there.

(more…)

Mike Coffman, Ironic Impeachment Tourist


Politico reporter Connor O’Brien caught sight of a familiar face at the U.S. Capitol in Washington today:

We’re not sure if this is ex-Rep. now Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman’s first trip back to D.C. since his double-digit loss to Rep. Jason Crow in the 2018 elections–it probably isn’t–but this year’s U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting couldn’t have come at a more ironic moment for Coffman as Crow basks in the national limelight serving as an impeachment manager in the trial of President Donald Trump. Coffman, who campaigned in both 2016 and 2018 on a platform of strained ambivalence toward Trump to triangulate off his own party’s brand, enjoys lifetime access to the floor of the U.S. House as a former member.

But it’s not surprising to spot him on the Senate side where there’s still a GOP majority to hobnob with, and of course that’s where all the action is this week anyway! If Coffman wants to make more of this trip than a bittersweet nostalgia tour, one way to do that would be to join his successor in calling for Trump’s removal from office. It would also help demonstrate, at least in hindsight, that Coffman’s affected disdain for Trump while trying to keep his seat was authentic.

Fat chance, we know.

Thursday Open Thread


“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

–Dante Alighieri

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