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September 27, 2013 04:45 PM UTC

A Few Words About Rep. Cory Gardner's Health Insurance

  • by: Colorado Pols

FRIDAY UPDATE: Rep. Cory Gardner on CNN's Crossfire last night, Stephanie Cutter grilled him on his claims of a massive premium increase for a "comparable" plan to his current $650 per month family policy:

We wish Cutter had zeroed in on Gardner's claim about his "100 percent increase" right at the end–he mentioned his current $650 monthly premium, but it doesn't get explored before Rep. Keith Ellison interjected with discussion of rates in Minnesota. Cutter does point out that rates in Gardner's district for a family policy, especially once subsidies are factored, are distantly below the figure Gardner claims he must now pay for "comparable" coverage to his current plan. Nobody we've talked to has been able to reconcile Gardner's shocking claim of well over a 150% increase, mostly because Gardner hasn't supplied enough information about either his existing plan or its supposed replacement to make that possible.

But as the Colorado Independent's Mike Littwin opines today, that might not be the point.

Cruz claims Obamacare has already been a disaster for America, even though it has barely begun. Rep. Cory Gardner claims Obamacare has robbed him of his insurance, although he refuses to give out any details. This is the paranoid world of GOP political theater.

It would be nice if reporters would make Gardner prove what he's asserting and nobody can reconcile, but even if they don't, his claims will be validated by his constituents as the Affordable Care Act takes effect, or proven false by them. We wouldn't wish the horror story Gardner describes on anybody, but it just doesn't add up. What's more the ACA is having lots of positive effects right now that his constituents can see with their own eyes.

Whichever way it comes out, we hope the truth about Gardner's health insurance claims gets as much attention as Gardner is getting right now with his insistence that the sky is falling. Original post follows.


Rep. Cory Gardner.
Rep. Cory Gardner.

The latest cause célèbre in the debate over the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare," concerns a dramatic claim being made by GOP Rep. Cory Gardner about his own family's health insurance. As the Colorado Independent reports:

Colorado Republican Congressman Cory Gardner has been railing against the law since before it passed. Two days ago, he wrote an op-ed for the Colorado Springs Gazette about how he never accepted federal employee health benefits when he went to Washington in 2010 and now his family’s private insurance plan has been cancelled because of “the myriad new regulations, requirements and mandates of the president’s health care law.” Gardner doesn’t offer any details about the provider or the plan nor any specifics on why it got canceled. He wrote that, if he decides to stick with his provider, he’ll have to pay more. He doesn’t say whether he can now find a better plan at a lower rate somewhere else or if he’s even tried. Righty blogger Michelle Malkin reported yesterday that Gardner is carrying the policy cancelation letter around with him as a prop…

Here's the relevant portion of Rep. Gardner's Gazette op-ed:

When I was elected to Congress, I chose not to enroll in the Federal Employee Health Benefits program that is available to Members of Congress and their staffs. Instead, I purchased insurance from the private market because I wanted to be enrolled in the same health insurance network that all Coloradans have access to. It's the same type of plan that many of my friends and neighbors in Yuma and across Colorado have…

Recent analysis has shown that average premiums in Colorado for the individual market will increase between 23 and 25 percent. Moreover, premiums are expected to increase by 17 percent in the small group market. After my current plan is discontinued, the closest comparable plan through our current provider will cost over 100 percent more, going from roughly $650 a month to $1,480 per month. [Pols emphasis]

Let's unpack the things we know and don't know about Gardner's claim that his insurance premium will increase from $650 per month to nearly $1,500 per month. Talking with health insurance experts–who we'll disclose do support Obamacare–the first thing they question is the strikingly low figure for Gardner's "existing" insurance relative to what he claims he'll have to pay for an "equivalent." According to this study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the 2013 average for an employer-based family health insurance total premium is over $16,300 per year. With that in mind, Gardner's current $650 monthly non-group premium for his family of four could be considered abnormally low–and that's before we learn any details about coverage, deductibles, and other considerations that Gardner has not bothered to disclose.

And that's where Gardner's grandiose claim of this massive increase gets really dubious. Was Gardner's old health insurance a high deductible "catastrophic" insurance plan? Did it not include some (or any) of the "essential health benefits" mandated by the Affordable Care Act, such as lab tests or mental health services? We don't know any of those details, but for determining the truth behind Gardner's allegation, those details are absolutely vital.


Gardner makes much of a claim by Barack Obama during the debate over health care reform that people could "keep" their existing plans. In the text of the law, this refers to "grandfathered" plans that existed before March 23, 2010, and they have to provide enough coverage (no lifetime caps, coverage of children until age 26, etc.). If they don't? Well, they're part of the problem we're solving with health care reform, and that's why better plans are about to be made available through the exchange. What's more, a large percentage of Gardner's constituents are going to get help paying for insurance bought through the exchange–admittedly not Gardner, whose congressional salary of $174,000 per year makes him ineligible for help. For more on benefits of Obamacare in Gardner's district, read this.

Bottom line: In Gardner's op-ed, he quotes "estimates" from sources unknown that premiums "individual market will increase between 23 and 25 percent." The Congressional Budget Office originally estimated more in the neighborhood of 10-13%, and that's before the subsidies for an estimated 57% of policyholders kick in. Some newer studies indicate the predicted rates of increase under Obamacare have been wildly overblown. Above all, no one can show us any rational figures that reconcile with Gardner's claim of an over 100% increase for the "closest comparable" plan. Until Gardner is willing to open the proverbial books and show precisely what the apples-to-apples differences are between his existing plan and his "equivalent" new one, we're just not buying any of this–and reporters need to ask Gardner for the proof.


45 thoughts on “A Few Words About Rep. Cory Gardner’s Health Insurance

  1. Maybe some of those shady folks who do Republican "fundraising" (keeping 90+% for themselves) are also in the insurance business.

    There is no way that a comparable plan costs that much more – if it were comparable, it would still be offered (or consolidated into a similar plan costing a similar amount of money).

    1. I'm gonna' say this one more time today:

      "The people who will VOLUNTARILY pay more [under the ACA], are [only] those that are those folks who never got basic math . . . "

      Cory's just demonstrating, again, that he's either not the sharpest tool in the bathtub, . . . or that he's an outright (and very poorly skilled) liar!

  2. Gardner is right, thousands of people are losing their insurance in Colorado.

    Americans are reeling now that we're learning the truth about Obamacare. It's exactly what we were warned. It's going to cost more and care will be rationed. If Obama and Democrats are smart, they'll give in to the inevitable and let Republicans defund Obamacare before it hurts too many people!

    1. ummm….. The sign up hasn't even started yet. Your source is a joke. We'll see how terrible people think it is by this time next year.  You sound pretty hysterical. You should watch that. Maybe pour yourself an adult beverage and watch a game or something before your head explodes. Exclamation point!


      1. . . . he's "reeling"  . . . because he's an "American."  (It's apparently something they're all doing these days)!!  Lawdy, lawdy — great goshamighty !!!

    2. You've got that bass-ackwards, n3b (like most of your perspectives). 

      Progress is what's inevitable. Moving forward to join the rest of the civilized world is what's inevitable. You can scream, you can cry, you can carry on, but it will happen. 

    3. Here's a better plan if you want GOTP victories.

      1) Require Obamacare to fully implemented.

      2) Track the results.

      By Oct 2014 we'll have enough data that if you are right (probably not) then the R's will win BIG – retaking the Senate.  Then do whateverinhell you want until 2016 when America will gladly elect ….Jeb? That Canadian guy? the Austrian guy in a come back?  Governor Jindal?  Whomever the GOTP can get through a primary.

      Control the Legislative branch as long as you can- starting with a repeal of Obamacare.  After that you can repeal Medicare, impeach Clinton, balance the budget, put two unicorns in every pot and a job for every kid who wants to go to school.


      If, however, you are wrong (probably) the GOTP loses for a long long time. Or until they can find some other myth to scare everyone with.  



    4. Absolutely correct.
      "thousands of people are losing their insurance in Colorado"
      What those "people with an agenda" fail to explain is that everyone will be able to sign up for a new Obamacare-compatible plan at approximately the same price.
      Is this a clusterfuck? Yes. It is a 3000-page law coming into force.
      But, the proper response should be: let's fix the problems.

    5. I'd suggest you can cure whatever ails you with your gun. It's just too bad you can't cure everything with one like you'd wish.Americans are "learning"nothing they're just hearing the wingnut propaganda at higher frequencies and volumes. If it's all that bad why don't the wingnuts just let it become law and damage their opposition? It's surely not because they have any feeling for anyone beyond the ruling class.

  3. Its cute neeb thinks CO Peak Politic articles are a source worth citing.  But I don't knhy Cory's got his undies in a knot!  Can't he just do away with it all once he's Health Minister of New Weldistan?

  4. HIs insurance is not your business except to the extent it got canceled.  You guys promised people would be able to keep their plans.  You deceived them. 

    1. Unless the insuror chooses to stop offering it.

      Would you have preferred regualtion that required all insurors to continue to offer whatever plans people had for as long as they want them?


      That seems …weird. Even the Massachussets governor did not do that when he implemented the personal mandate back when.  Not even the Heritage Foundation when they invented Obamacare included that kind of provision.  Your's is an odd breed of anti-liberalism.

        1. I think its actually anti-Obamaism.  If Obama is for it, even if its a cure for cancer, I am against it.  It surpasses all boundaries of rationality, but thats what it is.

          1. Ding ding ding! We have a winner! 

            Nobody has ever been able to guarantee that anyone will be able to keep their private sector, free market insurance plans. The ones Elliot and Gardner hold sacrosanct.

            Just ask all the people who have had their plans canceled because they got too sick, spent too much on a chronic condition or lost plans they liked when they became too expensive for their employer, got laid off, go fired, their employer raised the employee's share of the cost beyond what the employee could afford or the private free market insurance company simply decided to stop offering a particular product. Where's all the Gardner/Eliot whining about any of that?

            Once ACA is fully implemented it's likely that fewer, not more, people will find themselves losing insurance that they like. Already you can't lose your insurance for a pre-existing condition the moment you're born.  So if you're born with serious health issues you're already better off and your parents are in much less danger of going bankrupt to keep you alive. 

            Incidentally going bankrupt over health disasters and with insurance is the most common circumstance of bankruptcy here in the US and completely unknown in any other modern industrialized country. 

            I know of a young, well (they thought) insured couple not so many years ago who were left with no choice but to establish a fund for assistance to pay for all the expensive procedures their doctor's suggested at a cost of a couple million, none of which prevented the inevitable death of their newborn twins within a matter of weeks. The crushing debt lasted a lot longer.

            Once Elliot's heroes repeal ACA and replace it with nothing but exactly what we had before, that's going to start happening to thousands of people again. Now that would be something worth some serious whining, as opposed to the inconvenience of maybe having to find a new affordable plan, with protections in place to keep coverage when you get sick and the ability to get insurance for any children you may have with pre-existing conditions that Eliot and Gardner are whining about. 

            Because don't we all want to fight to the death for the freedom to have sick children who can't get the health care they need unless we lose everything we have so they can have government assistance? Give me unfettered free market or give me bankruptcy and death would make a really swell slogan for Gardner, Elliot and friends.. 

    2. that's what you got?  with all your brilliant legal learning and political acumen all you got is to point a stinky finger & call supporters liars.  How about a chance Crappy Cory is lying, what are the chances of that?

      Cory's got to prove his claims with facts … even an imbecilic esq asks for facts to refute or suppoprt a claim but you're pretty happy just letting Cory skate .  EF'in piece of work you are … 


      1. Reminds me of an old salesman joke:

        What do you call the salesman that comes in second on a deal?


        What do you call the lawyer that came in at the bottom of his class?



    3. "HIs insurance is not your business…"? I think you got that backward. Gardner made claims about his insurance on national TV to sell his idiology, but were are not allowed to ask questions to verify his claims?

  5. If he's tossing numbers around to justify his ridiculous 43 votes to 'repeal' the ACA while drawing a six figure salary from the US taxpayer but otherwise doing diddly, I think it is.

  6. He makes $174k and his insurance costs are going up.  He has over 100,000 kids in his district that live in childhood poverty.  Please forgive me if I don't cry crocodile tears.

    1. Except that he says he wants to live under the same insurance plans everyone else has. Well, next year as a Congressman he'll be able to get the same insurance plan everyone else has – in fact, he'd be required to choose from an exchange plan. And he'd get a co-pay as a Congressman for doing so. Best of both worlds for him.


    2. For arguments sake, let's just cede that he isn't lying; that his insurance costs are going to go "up" by some number.  At his salary, he's in the top 1% of wage earners in his district.  He's the elected representative to everyone in his district.  Every single human soul in his district.  His district has 109,000 children living in childhood poverty.  His response to Stephanie Cutter should have done something like this:

      "Stephanie, my family is blessed.  My wife and two children never spend a single day worrying about where their next meal is going to come from.  If they get sick, they will always have access to quality health care.  If it means that I, someone who is in the 1%, has to pay a little more so that thousands in my district now have access to health care, then we've won the battle."

      Now, off to look for flying pigs…

  7. Here is what really enrages me about Gardner's claim (even if it is true, which it is almost certainly is not).  By his own admission, he has chosen not to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plans.  If he did, he could pay, for example, $224 a month for a Kaiser HMO with very good benefits (2014 rates).  The government (his employer) picks up the tab for the rest of the premium ($670). The total monthly premium is approx. $894 for a family policy.  I just got my renewal quote for my small group. For a not as good policy (higher co-pay, more expensive prescription drugs, more out of pocket, etc.) my premium would be over $1,400.00.  How can that be? Why am I paying more for less? Because, unlike the federal government, I have no purchasing power.  Keep in mind, Kaiser is not forced to sell a plan to the feds (just as no company is forced to sell on the new exchanges).  They choose to do so and their actuaries tell them what they can charge in premiums and still make a tidy profit. 

    All I want is what Gardner has.  I want to pay a fair price for a fair product. I know it must be a fair price because Kaiser voluntarily sells it at that price.  But they won't sell it to me for that price.  They charge me more because they can.  If I don't like it, I can go without.  Except, I can't go without.  I do not want to go bankrupt if I (or my family member) get sick. 

    Gardner's whole shtick about buying "what all Coloradans have access to" makes me want to puke.  If he is trully doing that, he knows that individuals are getting screwed because they cannot get the same deals as the US government (medicare, medicare, tricare, etc.) and he should be doing something to solve the problem rather than simply complaining about Obama.

    1. Agreed.  The whole thing is disgusting.  And little neeb's swallow it up, gobble gobble.

      Tipton is posting nonsense about John Kerry signing a pact with the UN to come steal America's guns on his Facebook feed, and for the most part the replies are people lapping it up, slurp, slurp.  Like the neeb.  Presuambly Tipton is not so thick-headed he believes this crap, in which case its just pitifully disgusting, disheartening, and an effing rip-off of the $174 he's skimming off the US Taxpayers (along with his staffs, offices, and–yes, government-funded healthcare). 

      If I am wrong in that presumption (and its a close call, I'll admit) , almost as troubling. 

      1. What Tipton so conveniently leaves out is that when thre UN comes for those guns, they will be riding red bicylces and blue helmets. Ha!  You'll see em a mile away.

  8. Gardner's price claim of $1480 would put him in the family of four silver plan range – CCHI Northeast non-metro service area sample rates available here (PDF). Yuma only has two plans listed at the individual level on CCHI's web site, but Gardner's rates might be lower if he shopped on the exchange based on the chart.

    There is no way in hell that an equivalent plan is currently being offered at $650 in a rural area like that. Maybe he bought a plan out of Greeley or even the Denver metro where things are cheaper? Because the other possibilities don't reflect well on the Congressman from district 4.

    1. The numbers on the CCHI chart also reflect the problems we have with these little regional health insurance / provider agreements…

      If there was a more uniform payment and claims system that made communication between insurers and providers trivial – and if groups weren't so territorial in their affiliations – then we would likely have a wider range of insurers in rural areas, offering substantially the same rates throughout the state or even nation.

  9. Willard M

    "I meant what I said
    And I said what I meant….
    A Canuck’s a Texan
    One hundred per cent!"

    "And it should be,
    it should be, it SHOULD be
    like that!"

    And because the Cuban was faithful,
    He shat as he spat!

    “My goodness! My gracious!”
    he whined like a snooker. “MY DIAPERS BEEN SOILED!
    Just like my Dear Friend from the Bayou
    And his high-priced hooker!"

    "We’ve GOT to make noises and in greater amounts!
    So, open your mouth, lads!
    For every voice counts!"

    "I’m the Crazy Canadian
    Oh, marvelous me!
    For my head is far bigger
    than any can see!"

    "I bloviate tedious…
    I love to complain.
    On and on ever,
    an endless refrain…

    Of Teaparty nonsense from little old me
    born of a Cuban under a Red Maple Leaf."

  10. So Gardner’s complaint is basically that the shitty policy he has will cost more, but ostensibly he wants the right to keep that rather than have the right to purchase a better policy at a better cost.

    OK buddy ! Gotta come up with a better lie than that…

  11. Try George F. Will for a more reasoned approach. He thinks a shutdown is foolish and defaulting on the debt more foolish still. And while Will strongly opposes Obamacare, he realizes Republican panic is based, in large part, on the fear that the American people might actually like it. And so he writes that if Obamacare is as bad as conservatives think, they “should allow what Lincoln called ‘the silent artillery of time’ to destroy it.”

    No wonder the Denver Post fired Mike Littwin — he's brilliant, turning the GOP arguments on their head,  as well as casting a long shadow over the hacks that currently infest the editorial pages of the Post.

  12. You're right, Davie. That is what they're afraid of. That people will try it and LOVE it. Then the teapublicans won't be able to tell lies to justify attempt number 3452 to repeal it. They're so scared that they won't be able to kill it once it's fully born that they want to do an intact D and E on it. Gee, I thoght they didn't approve of that. Someone should ask them about this tactic, exactly this way, and skewer 'em with their own rhetoric.

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