Congrats, GOP! You’re The Anti-Vaxxer Party Again

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: GOP Rep. Mark Baisley explains the GOP’s party-line opposition to House Bill 19-1312 in a lengthy post today–and it’s a worst-case scenario, invoking the most discredited of misinformation about vaccines:

The stated goal of the bill is to reduce the occurrence of childhood diseases. Colorado averages approximately 90% current vaccinations for children under 3 years of age. But recent epidemics such as autism have arisen and parents are understandably suspicious of vaccines as the cause. [Pols emphasis] Citizens should not be coerced by the State to permit pharmaceutical injections into their children. Nor should they be shamed by their own government for their choice.

Furthermore, Colorado citizens entrust billions of their hard-earned dollars every year to their government to provide K12 education. This bill threatens to withhold delivering that service to children whose parents do not cooperate with their government’s controlling ambitions.

I stand in strong opposition to HB19-1312.

In today’s Republican Party, pseudoscience has triumphed. Who can argue otherwise?

—–

Measles.

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reported in the wee hours, and then hopefully she went to bed:

A bill to make it harder for parents to get a vaccination exemption for their children passed out of a Colorado House committee on a 7-4 vote at about 4 a.m. Tuesday morning — nearly 14 hours after the hearing started.

It was the longest committee of the 2019 legislative session so far with hundred of parents bouncing and walking their children up and down the Capitol halls late into the night…

“This is about keeping Colorado’s kids safe. We need to be proactive, not reactive. We are in the midst of public health crisis and we can’t wait for a tragedy to occur,” Rep. Mullica, D-Northglenn, said in a statement released early Tuesday morning after the bill passed. “Experts believe this option will help improve Colorado’s dismal and dangerous immunization rates.”

Owing to the hefty Democratic majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, it should be noted that the 7-4 vote in favor of House Bill 19-1312 was in fact a party-line vote. All the Republicans on the House Health and Insurance Committee voted against the bill, which is itself a compromise from earlier proposed legislation that would have eliminated the personal-choice exemption for immunization of children headed to Colorado public schools. As we discussed previously, that proposal was considered too coercive by Gov. Jared Polis, leading to this compromise measure that should still help improve Colorado’s embarrassingly low child immunization rate.

The issue of childhood vaccinations, more to the point the highly prevalent misinformation suggesting a range of negative health effects from vaccinating children that has no scientific basis, doesn’t always divide cleanly along partisan lines. One of the areas of the state with a low rate of vaccinations is “progressive” Boulder County. Over the last few years, however, the “freedom” to not have children vaccinated has been championed almost exclusively in Colorado by Republican lawmakers on the fringy side of the caucus. Two now-defeated Republican Senators in particular, Laura Woods and Tim Neville, unapologetically championed both the pseudoscience behind anti-vaxxer ideology and conspiracy theories about children being “rounded up and vaccinated” without their parent’s consent.

In case you were wondering who was going to take up the anti-vaxxer cause now that Woods and Tim Neville are history, direct your attention to all the Republicans on the House Health and Insurance Committee.

Congratulations, Colorado Republicans, for taking ownership of this fringe issue. Again.

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USA Today’s ALEC Expose Highlights State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s Asbestos Bill

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity released a report today revealing the breadth of so-called “model bills” written by corporations and conservative advocacy groups and distributed through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg features prominently in the report, which focuses on his “Asbestos Transparency Bill.”

Better transparency was one reason Colorado state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg said he introduced the bill in 2017, and again last year, at the urging of a tort reform group called the Colorado Civil Justice League and backed by insurance companies, including Nationwide Insurance. “Whenever you add transparency to the mix, it helps all consumers,” said Sonnenberg, a Republican. [The bill], in effect, cast corporations as victims of litigation filed by people harmed by asbestos. The model bill requires people battling the asbestos-triggered disease mesothelioma to seek money from an asbestos trust, set up to compensate victims, before they can sue a company whose product might have caused their cancer. That process can take months or even a year. Many mesothelioma victims die within a year of their diagnosis. Their families can still sue on their behalf, but for far less money.

The report follows its rundown of Sonnenberg’s industry-friendly bill with an interview of Chris Winokur, widow of former Fort Collins Mayor Bob Winokur, who died of mesothelioma in 2015, just nine months after his diagnosis.

It wraps up the Colorado segment by Sonnenberg saying he didn’t realize who the corporate lobbyist and ALEC committee chair who testified for the bill worked for:

Sonnenberg told USA TODAY he didn’t know Behrens worked for the Chamber of Commerce when he called him to testify. “I just knew they were experts and they indeed understood the legal issues and process much better than I,”

Sen. Sonnenberg is as familiar with ALEC as any legislator in the state. Records show him attending their conferences in 2006 and 2007, the years he received $1000+ “ALEC scholarships. He likely attended in 2017 as well, when he gave a radio interview to a Nashville station where he said was at a “gathering of legislators where he served on an energy task force.” Nashville was hosting an ALEC conference at the time.

(more…)

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Polis Health Care Plan Shows Why Elections Matter

“Roadmap to Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care” rollout on Thursday

Governor Jared Polis rolled out a detailed plan on Thursday morning for reducing health care costs in Colorado called the “Roadmap to Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care.”

In an event at Denver Health Medical Center, Polis outlined a proposal that includes several pieces of legislation currently making their way through the State Capitol. As KOAA News reports:

Polis already signed a hospital transparency bill into law last week.  That law requires hospitals to report their annual spending and expenditures as part of an effort to lower health care prices.

There are already bills going through the legislature to import prescription drugs from Canada and introduce a reinsurance pool designed to lower premiums for private insurers.

In addition to short-term solutions, Polis also mentioned plans to incentivize preventative care, introduce healthy options to children at schools, improve immunization rates and introduce a separate plan to address behavioral health.

Here’s more detail from a press release:

“Health care costs too much,” said Governor Jared Polis. “No Coloradan should have to go without care because they can’t afford it. This roadmap will be our guide to saving people money on healthcare and ensuring better access to affordable care for everyone in our state.”

Colorado has taken significant steps to increase access to health care and insurance coverage during the past decade. As a result, today only 6.5 percent of Coloradans don’t have health insurance compared to 15.8 percent in 2013. Despite this improvement, the cost of care has been increasing at an alarming rate, especially in rural areas and mountain communities.

All of the central legislative efforts outlined in Polis’ health care proposal have bipartisan support. In other words, these are all bills that could have been shepherded through the legislative process at any point in the last several years.

The reason you aren’t already saving more money on health care costs is because that would have required Senate Republicans to do something other than obstructing Democratic bills and obfuscating about sexual harassment with their one-seat majority in 2017 and 2018. Republicans such as former Senate President Kevin Grantham liked to say that they served as a “check” on Democratic control; in reality, they were an obstacle to reasonable discussions about all sorts of common-sense legislative approaches.

There is absolutely no way that these health care savings efforts would have been produced without Colorado voters giving Democrats both a majority and a mandate in November 2018. The right leadership matters. Elections matter.

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Good Luck, Speedy Recovery To Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Mike Littwin of the Colorado Independent broke significant news yesterday that Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, a likely entry into the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination will undergo surgery for prostate cancer prior to making a final decision:

Just as he had finally become comfortable with his decision to run, he went to get a physical and received very discomfiting news from his doctor — he has prostate cancer.

His PSA was high. The biopsy showed malignancy. The doctors recommended that, at his age, surgery was the best course of action. His family agreed. The risk, he was told, was low. John Kerry had survived, cancer free, the same surgery in 2003 and two weeks later was back on the campaign trail, on his way to winning the Democratic nomination. And so …

And so, now Bennet is still committed to running for president if — and it’s an important if, but an if that Bennet says he’s at peace with — he will be cancer free. The surgery to remove the prostate gland is scheduled for soon after the congressional spring recess, which begins on April 11.

When I asked Bennet how he was taking all this — the cancer, not the presidential bid — he said he was OK. “I’m too busy to really sit back and think about it,” he said, “and that’s probably the best thing.”

The odds are good that Sen. Bennet’s treatment will be successful, but it’s a responsible choice to be certain before undertaking something as strenuous as a presidential campaign. We’ll add our best wishes to the bipartisan outpouring of goodwill since yesterday evening when the story broke.

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Trump Pulls Rug From Under Gardner on Health Care

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

After the report on the investigation into the 2016 elections by Special Counsel Robert Mueller was given to the Justice Department, leading to a terse memo from Attorney General William Barr that has at least for the moment alleviated the immediate threat of impeachment of President Donald Trump over the still-unreleased report’s conclusions, Trump immediately started pushing hard on a fresh effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act–a program that has hung on tenaciously despite numerous attempts to repeal and a number of successful attempts to weaken President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

Well, as CNN reports today, the President is abandoning this latest campaign as quickly as it began:

President Donald Trump on Monday night backed away from his push for a vote on an Obamacare replacement until after the 2020 elections, bowing to the political reality that major health care legislation cannot pass in the current Congress.

Trump’s statements come a week after his administration announced that it now agreed with a judge’s ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act should be scrapped. The opinion was a dramatic reversal from the administration’s previous stance that only portions of the act could not be defended…

“The Republicans are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House. It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America,” Trump declared in a series of tweets. “Also, Republicans will always support Pre-Existing Conditions. The Republican Party will be known as the Party of Great HealtCare. Meantime, the USA is doing better than ever & is respected again!”

Between now and the 2020 elections, there is a more-than-zero chance that the Affordable Care Act will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that event, it would be crucial for a replacement plan to be quickly passed into law to avoid the loss of health coverage for some 20 million Americans–including hundreds of thousands in Colorado–who depend on the ACA today. By punting the issue until after the election, any such disruption would be overwhelmingly blamed on Republicans who have been trying to tear the law down from its inception. Indeed, the vote by the GOP majority in Congress to zero out the tax penalty for not obtaining insurance is central to the latest legal challenge against the law, arguing that without the “mandate” the ACA isn’t functional.

If the ACA is upheld after this latest challenge, its severely compromised present state still threatens to collapse the whole system–damage done incrementally through both neglect and purposeful actions like zeroing out the mandate and cutting off key subsidies to insurance companies. Action needs to be taken in good faith to shore up the ACA now, not dismantling it by the legislative equivalent of throwing spitwads. Over two years into the Trump presidency, it’s simply not enough to blame the previous administration for these ongoing challenges. The voters stopped buying that in 2018 with clear results.

Next to Trump himself, the Republican perhaps most imperiled by this turn of events on health care in the whole nation is Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. A combination of timing and deliberate strategy has left Gardner much more exposed on this issue than other Republican Senators up for re-election in 2020. In 2010, Gardner’s campaign for Congress was basically a single-issue assault on the Affordable Care Act. In Congress, Gardner repeatedly leveled misleading attacks about “hundreds of thousands of Coloradans losing their coverage” even as the ACA drove the rate of uninsured in Colorado to historic lows.

And back in 2015, Cory Gardner promised that if “Obamacare” was overturned, Republicans would be ready:

The Republicans will have plan in place if the ruling is for the plaintiffs. Our plan will be ready to go. And this president then will have to decide whether he wants to stand with our plan to make sure that we have an answer for the American people, or if the wants to try to inflict pain on the American people. [Pols emphasis]

Today those words would apply perfectly, wouldn’t they? But Gardner can never use them. Over and over since Trump’s election in 2016, Gardner has expressed support for Republican replacements for the Affordable Care Act–replacements that either never got past the drafting stage or were voted down because of the “pain” they would “inflict” on the American people in the form of millions of Americans losing their coverage.

You know, the one thing Gardner said he didn’t want to happen. But he voted yes anyway.

Cory Gardner didn’t have to make opposing the ACA the centerpiece of his career in federal office. He didn’t have to lie about Coloradans losing their coverage in 2013. He didn’t have to promise a Republican replacement that would protect Coloradans as well as the ACA has, then vote for legislation that would actually strip Coloradans of their coverage the way Gardner falsely claimed the ACA had done. All of these were deliberate political choices made by a politician who calculated that he could win elections this way.

As of now, Gardner has nothing to show for it. Only hard questions he can’t answer truthfully.

And eight wasted years.

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Gardner Still Wants to Kill “Command-And-Control” Obamacare, But Doesn’t Offer a Replacement Plan

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner doubled down yesterday on his longstanding opposition to Obamacare, saying the national health insurance law has “failed” without offering a concrete plan to replace it.

Gardner’s comments, delivered on KNUS 710-AM’s Steffan Tubbs show, came as the Trump Administration announced yesterday that it will not defend Obamacare in court.

“We need to have Republicans and [laughs] Democrats recognize that the Affordable Care Act failed,” said Gardner when asked by Tubbs what he thought the latest GOP effort to kill the Affordable Care Act.

As part of his evidence for this, Gardner cited the discredited figure that “hundreds of thousands of Coloradans had their insurance plans canceled” due to Obamacare.

In a fact check of a campaign ad citing those numbers, then 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman pointed out that “it’s true that millions of people with individual coverage got cancellation notices because their old plans didn’t meet the standards of Obamacare…. But getting one of these notices is not the same thing as losing insurance.”

Gardner is apparently trying to make people think all these people lost their insurance, which is not the case. In fact, renewals were offered to the vast majority of people whose policies were canceled, and new policies were offered to all.

Gardner cited actions that could be taken to replace Obamacare.

(more…)

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Cracking Down On Vaccine Scofflaws: No Brainer, Right?

Measles.

Denver7’s Jennifer Kovaleski reports on legislation awaited in the Colorado General Assembly that would tighten Colorado’s very loose standards for immunization of children in order to attend public school, proposing the elimination of a “personal belief” exemption considered responsible for the state’s bottom-of-the-nation ranking on immunizations even ask preventable epidemics rage in other states:

Colorado has the lowest rate of vaccinations in the nation, with less than 89 percent of kindergarteners receiving vaccinations to prevent illness such as measles and bumps — far less than the national average and 95 percent threshold needed to prevent an outbreak.

“To hear that we were last in the entire country was concerning, it was embarrassing,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn. “This is not a political issue, this is about our kids being safe.”

Mullica is drafting legislation that could eliminate the personal belief exemption in Colorado, which lets parents opt out of vaccinating their kids for personal reasons.

We’ve written at length in this space about battles over child immunization policy in the Colorado state legislature in the past few years, mostly stemming from a push from suburban Republican lawmakers like former Sens. Tim Neville and Laura Woods to further weaken the state’s already highly permissive standards. Sen. Woods warned baselessly of children being “rounded up and vaccinated” in Denver schools, while Neville tried to do away with the opt-out waiver process for immunizations altogether as a “privacy issue.”

Woods and Neville represented an extreme on the issue of vaccinations, but as Denver7 continues, the opposition to Rep. Kyle Mullica’s bill to eliminate the personal belief exemption–a significant step in the other direction–includes as of this writing none other than Gov. Jared Polis himself:

“Governor Polis is concerned about how low vaccination rates negatively impact public health. He believes there are successful strategies we can use to increase vaccination rates that don’t put big government in the middle of the parent-child relationship and protect our freedom,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “Governor Polis believes that forcing people to receive shots they don’t want creates mistrust of government, mistrust of vaccinations, and would ultimately backfire and hurt public health.” [Pols emphasis]

And with that, we have a disagreement that is no longer a clean partisan split–which it never really was, despite the recent backward push on the issue from local Republicans. It’s not entirely unexpected either, after the Colorado Sun’s John Frank reported last week that Polis opposed mandatory vaccinations in Congress–even though Gov. Polis makes clear that his own children have been vaccinated and he personally thinks it’s the right thing to do.

With outbreaks of preventable diseases in other states continuing to lend urgency to the debate over Colorado’s low rate of childhood vaccinations just as they did a few years ago when Neville and Woods brought their ill-conceived legislation, and all credible research continuing to soundly reject the idea that vaccines produce the vast range of negative health effects its often pseudoscientific critics insist they do…

Sorry, folks, but this is not an issue that has any room for political spin. If Rep. Mullica’s approach is not the right way to move Colorado out of literal last place with regard to childhood immunizations, let’s hear the alternative. Because the problem is not up for responsible debate.

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Remembering Carrie Ann Lucas, Fearless Health Care Activist

Carrie Ann Lucas.

9NEWS reports on the death yesterday of a well-known activist for the rights of people with disabilities in Denver and protecting health care reform in general–Carrie Ann Lucas, who helped lead the June 2017 occupation of Sen. Cory Gardner’s Denver office during the debate over repeal of the Affordable Care Act, helping cement national public opinion against the repeal campaign by putting a human face on repeal’s potential victims:

A Coloradan known for being a relentless advocate for disability rights died on Sunday.

Carrie Ann Lucas was a nationally-recognized attorney who lived with a severe neuromuscular disease. She grew up in Windsor, Colo. and had several careers including being a teacher, ordained minister and legal assistant before becoming an attorney.

From an obituary posted to Lucas’ Facebook page:

Ms. Lucas was an advocate with the disability rights groups ADAPT and Not Dead Yet, speaking, teaching, writing, testifying, and protesting on disability justice and the rights of people with disabilities to healthcare and respect. She was also a talented photographer and cook. Carrie Ann was an activist at heart. She graduated from EMERGE, ran for Windsor City Council in 2017, and was planning on additional political activity. She was chair of Colorado Democrats with Disabilities for the past several years. She was a member of the ADAPT group that protested in Cory Gardner’s office and got arrested to help save the Affordable Care Act in 2017, particularly Medicaid. She served on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. She was active with Not Dead Yet and fought hard against physician assisted suicide and the notion that life with a disability is not worth living. She demonstrated every day how amazing life with a disability can be. She was given the Intersectionality Award from The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center in 2016. She was a leader in passing HB 18-1104 which changed Colorado law to make sure that disability was no longer a reason to remove a child from a parental home. There is much, much more.

Although Lucas was arrested along with the other ADAPT activists who occupied Sen. Gardner’s office in Denver during the Affordable Care Act repeal debate, arresting officers were unequipped to accommodate her chair and medical technology–which allowed her to wait outside the downtown Denver jail along with the media while the other protesters were kept in custody. The visceral images of protesters in wheelchairs being dragged out of Gardner’s office made nationwide headlines, and contributed significantly to overwhelming public opposition to the repeal of the ACA.

It’s fair to say Gardner’s already poor approval ratings weren’t helped by his handling of the debacle either.

According to social media posts, Lucas’ death may be attributable to an “arbitrary denial” of treatment coverage by her insurer that led to fatal complications. If that’s true and it can be credibly shown that her death was preventable, it’s a tragedy the whole nation should know about.

In the meantime, if you want to honor Carrie Ann Lucas’ legacy, take up her fight.

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Sometimes The Bad Guys Win

KNUS-AM host Steffan Tubbs.

9NEWS’ Kyle Clark reported last night on the decision by Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood to give up on trying to pass legislation this year to authorize a pilot safe injection site for people struggling with opioid addiction, which would have been established at the location of an existing needle exchange program in downtown Denver.

As we’ll explain, those details are important:

Democrats in the Colorado Legislature will not attempt to pass a bill this session that would allow Denver to open America’s first supervised drug injection site.

Democratic Senator Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood said Republican opponents have seized on the injection sites to “bring fear and misinformation.”

…Pettersen acknowledged that faltering support from her fellow Democrats doomed the yet-to-be-introduced bill. Democrats control both houses of the Colorado Legislature and would not have needed a single Republican vote to pass the bill.

Recognizing the difficulty of addressing the opioid crisis, which has overwhelmed public health and law enforcement authorities and prompted the more recent emphasis on treatment and compassion rather than criminalization of people who suffer from opioid addiction, we understand that opinions among any group of people including our readers of this particular solution will vary.

But in the end, the opposition to this year’s effort was not policy related at all. As Colorado Public Radio reports, this was all about Republican minority politics–their first chance to draw blood from Democrats who flattened them in last year’s elections. And they seized on the opportunity with all of the usual suspects joining in, and the usual factual challenges:

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville floated the idea of recall elections to remove Democratic lawmakers from office if they voted to support the legislation. In early February, the Colorado Republican Party sent out an email that called safe injection sites an oxymoron…

Local conservative talk radio also played an active role in opposition.

KNUS talk show host Peter Boyles visited Vancouver to see the impact of a facility there and created a “No Safe Sites,” webpage, part of an effort to derail a potential Denver program. “This is so dangerous and so frightening and the cost is so expensive,” Boyles said.

Employing the same wildly false rhetoric we saw during last year’s SD-22 race, AM radio in Denver whipped up right-wing opposition to safe injection sites early this year in anticipation of a legislative debate. Peter Boyles, longtime local radio bottom feeder who we’ve called out in this space for his regular breaches of factuality and decency, was joined by Steffan Tubbs–another KNUS host who was fired by the more mainstream 850 KOA after a domestic violence arrest and has been rebuilding his career in the bush leagues.

Again, views on this issue might not always align even on the left. But the attacks on this bill were simply not accurate. This was about setting up a pilot program at a location that already serves people suffering from addiction in downtown Denver, yet these talk radio hosts had their gullible suburban audiences believing that it would mean “addicts shooting up on your street”–a situation not far from the status quo. Much like the lunatic debate over this year’s bill on sex education, opponents simply disconnected from the facts and let their imaginations run wild.

But sometimes it works. Even the best-intended efforts can be rendered politically nonviable if opponents’ misinformation becomes the dominant narrative. That’s what happened in this case, and it’s our local talk radio lowlifes–normally and correctly relegated to the fringe–taking credit for shutting down rational debate.

Whatever your opinion, we can do better. We can debate better. And hopefully next time that’s what happens.

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Bill Coming Due for Gardner on Healthcare #FAIL

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner (July 28, 2017)

Poll after poll has shown that healthcare was the most dominant political issue of the 2018 election cycle, in which Democrats took majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives and earned sweeping victories across the country — including here in Colorado. Republicans were well aware of this problem ahead of Election Day; they tried unsuccessfully to mitigate the impact last fall with a silly measure intended to show that the GOP really did care about pre-existing conditions.

The Republican healthcare problem is back in the news today with a report from the Washington Post about a recent conversation between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and top GOP donors:

Speaking privately to his donors, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy squarely blamed Republican losses in last year’s midterm elections on the GOP push to roll back health insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions — and in turn blamed his party’s right flank.

McCarthy’s comments, made in a Feb. 6 conference call from which The Washington Post obtained partial recordings, represent a vindication of Democratic efforts to elevate health care as an issue in last year’s campaign. And in singling out the House Freedom Caucus, the remarks threaten to rekindle internal resentments inside the House Republican Conference…

…Elsewhere on the call, McCarthy offered a selective account of the 2017 health-care battles on Capitol Hill, where Republicans in the House toiled for months to craft an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, narrowly passing a bill in May before watching the Senate abandon the effort three months later.

“When we couldn’t pass the repeal of Obamacare the first way through, an amendment came because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for” the original House bill, McCarthy said. “That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race.”

McCarthy’s frank assessment of how Republicans bungled attempts at changing healthcare policy will be particularly relevant for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) as he approaches his re-election campaign. Gardner makes a lot of vacuous statements about healthcare policy as he tries to dance around the fact that he was a reliable vote for every Republican attempt at gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2017. He won’t be able to shimmy around these tough questions with his name on the ballot in 2020.

July 27, 2017

Mark Matthews (then of the Denver Post) foresaw this very scenario for Gardner after Sen. John McCain dramatically sank Republican efforts to dismantle healthcare protections for Americans in July 2017:

…[Gardner] wouldn’t take a concrete position on any of the GOP plans to undo the 2010 health care law — only to back every major Republican proposal last week to come up for a vote, from repeal-and-replace to repeal-and-delay.

On one level, it’s not surprising: Gardner ran for Senate in 2014 on a pledge to dismantle the ACA and, as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he’s close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that his GOP colleagues — most of whom want to unwind the ACA — get re-elected in 2018.

“I am committed to reforming our nation’s broken health care system, and I’ll continue to work to bring relief to Coloradans being hurt by the negative impacts of Obamacare,” Gardner said after the repeal effort collapsed early Friday.

But the way the fight played out — from his own wavering to the Senate’s rushed, overnight vote — leaves Gardner exposed back in Colorado, a swing state with an active conservative base but one where surveys have shown a greater desire to fix the ACA rather than repeal it.

It is, of course, deeply ironic that a politician who rose to prominence because of his opposition to the ACA will struggle to win another term in office…for the exact same reason.

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Gardner Supports EPA Decision Not To Regulate Toxic Chemicals In Colorado Drinking Water

(Drink up! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Trump administration is refusing to regulate two toxic chemicals known to contaminate the drinking water of many Americans, including tens of thousands of families near Colorado Springs.

The decision by Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has angered many Republicans in Congress, but not Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner.

This is despite the fact that studies have shown that nearly 80,000 people living near Peterson Air Force Base, just southeast of Colorado Springs, are exposed to dangerously high levels of contamination and have been for years.

[Gardner] told POLITICO he expected there would be a federal role in regulating the chemicals, but he wanted to see the results of a health study included in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

“I think it’s very important that we get as much information as we can and then act appropriately,” he said.

The study Sen. Gardner is referring to won’t begin until August of this year and will take five to seven years to complete. Funded by the Department of Defense and conducted by the Health & Human Services’ Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the national study of eight sites near U. S. military bases may or may not include the Peterson AFB site.

The chemicals known collectively as PFAS have been largely phased out of industrial use in the United States, but are still found in the fire retardant foam used to fight petroleum-based fires.

Numerous studies linked these chemicals to kidney cancer, liver damage, increased risk of thyroid disease, decreased fertility and other health threats.

Last summer the Trump administration attempted to block its own Department of Health and Human Services from releasing an 852-page “toxicological profile” summarizing the “adverse health effects information for these toxic substances.”

In December 2018 the Colorado School of Mines released a study of people living near of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Research showed levels of a particular PFAS toxic compound, PFHxS, at ten times the national average.

This followed a 2017 health assessment by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) that found higher rates of cancer among the Peterson AFB communities of Fountain and Security-Widefield.

(more…)

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GOP Tries To Swap FAMLI With “SCAMLI”

Sen. Faith Winter (D).

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reported late last week, one of the top Democratic policy priorities in the Colorado legislature for 2019 is the passage of a paid family medical leave system, known as the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Act:

A paid family- and medical-leave bill is among the Democrats’ priorities this year. They’ve focused discussion on how to ensure that all Coloradans have the ability to get paid time off work when they have a newborn or become sick.

[Sen. Faith] Winter, who is leading the charge, called the measure “a social insurance program.” It’s not clear yet who will pay and how much, although preliminary estimates show employees and employers each paying about $1 to $2 a week into a fund. Initial costs would be covered by bonding.

Similar legislation has been introduced by Democrats for several years running now, only to meet its end in the single-seat majority GOP-controlled Colorado Senate. In 2018, Democrats including now-Sen. Faith Winter campaigned heavily on the passage of paid family medical leave and Republican obstruction of this popular idea.

With Democrats now in firm control of both chambers of the Colorado legislature, there’s little Republicans can do at this point to stop the FAMLI Act from becoming law. With that in mind, Republicans have switched tactics from a frontal assault on popular family leave, which is politically a train wreck, to more of a bait-and-switch approach:

Republican Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain plans to introduce her own paid-leave legislation, which would reimburse workers through tax credits.

The Republican counterproposal to FAMLI in 2019 is House Bill 19-1058, which just became available to read on the state legislative website over the weekend. Although this legislation purports to create a paid family medical leave system, that’s not the reality–this is a bill to let workers create their own savings accounts subject to a state income tax deduction, combined with a voluntary employer match that would qualify for a nonrefundable tax credit. The revenue reduction from these credits would presumably come from other programs.

In practice, this bill would do almost nothing to solve a serious problem faced by a large percentage of Colorado households. The incentives to save money for medical leave in this bill are simply not enough to motivate widespread participation, and the reality is that working people already have major challenges to establishing savings of any kind, let alone savings for such a specific purpose. The whole point of family medical leave is to provide relief to workers unexpectedly unable to work, but the GOP’s plan would only help those who already have the resources to prepare in advance.

As debate proceeds over the FAMLI Democratic plan for a family leave insurance system, look for Republicans and their mouthpieces to push hard on their “SCAMLI” alternative legislation as evidence that they are responding to the problem. Under the hood, however, these two plans could not be more different, and only one will actually accomplish the stated goal. Much like Ivanka Trump’s ill-fated idea to let workers drain their Social Security benefits to cover parental leave, it’s a naive solution–proposed without an understanding of the real problem.

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Dems Push Quick Health Care Relief For Mountain Towns

Rep. Dylan Roberts (D).

The Denver Post reports on an ambitious agenda item proposed by Democrats representing mountain communities beset with some of the highest health coverage costs in the state, bringing long-sought and potentially speedy relief to consumers paying insurance premiums that can rival and even exceed mortgage payments:

State Rep. Dylan Roberts and Sen. Kerry Donovan, who represent mountain communities along Interstate 70, plan to introduce a pair of bills on the first day of the 2019 legislative session that would direct the state to create a public health insurance option.

Roberts’ bill would instruct state agencies to create the infrastructure needed to establish a state insurance program and request federal approval. His goal is to provide the new option by 2020.

Donovan’s companion bill would instruct the state to immediately create a pilot program to offer a public option to counties that have limited insurance choices and face extraordinarily high premiums. If the bill wins approval, the smaller program would begin in 2019.

Although the generous subsidies in the Affordable Care Act have offset some of the expense for health coverage on the individual market on the Western Slope and other rural areas of the state, for those with too much income to qualify for those subsidies–not to mention folks caught between enrollment periods or facing other inevitable circumstances–health coverage has become an unworkable burden. These were trends in motion long before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but partisan gridlock has made any remediation of the problem since then impossible–at the federal level since the 2010 elections, and in Colorado since the Colorado Senate was taken by Republicans in 2014.

If Colorado Democrats succeed in tangibly reducing the burden of exorbitant health coverage costs in Colorado’s resort towns and elsewhere outside the Front Range next year, they’ll be rewarded in some of the last places in the state they don’t already own politically. From there, the long-term vision is very exciting–but we wanted to focus on this immediate move to bring relief to people who need it, well, immediately. This has been a vexing problem for years, and while solutions were not unimaginable they were not politically viable.

At the state level anyway, the blockage has been removed.

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Gardner Indicates Support For Court Ruling Killing Obamacare And Calls for Creation of Unspecified Better Healthcare “System”

(Gardner’s favorite programs are the “unspecified” ones — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner apparently supports a decision last week by a federal judge striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Asked yesterday by a KOA radio host if he agrees with Texas judge, Gardner indicated he supports the ruling, but he wants Congress to pass a law guaranteeing protections for pre-existing conditions “as we have said we will do and we’ll continue to work to do.”

GARDNER: Well, this is going to take some time to work through the system. The status quo remains in place. Nothing changes as this decision will be appealed, most likely all the way to the Supreme Court.

What has to happen: Congress needs to guarantee protections for pre-existing conditions, as we have said we will do and we’ll continue to work to do. But we also have to find a[n] approach that fixes what’s wrong with Obamacare, because it has led to hundreds of thousands of people who had their health insurance plans canceled, and higher costs.

So, let’s create a system that allows people to buy the insurance they want at a price they can afford.

Gardner voted for three senate bills that would have killed Obamacare, but they failed to pass, the last one going down with the thumb of former U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona. All would have raised health-insurance premiums and made people lose their health insurance.

Gardner has not come forward with a specific plan that, as he puts it, “allows people to buy the insurance they want at a price they can afford.”

Gardner also supported the Trump tax bill, which became law, and eliminated the requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine.

For years, Gardner has repeatedly said that people had their insurance plans cancelled under Obamacare, including himself.

In truth, the old plans, like his, did not meet the requirements of Obamacare, such as free preventative care and coverage of pre-existing conditions and children, so folks with substandard plans were directed to sign up for compliant coverage. Everyone was offered a new plan; they were not thrown off the rolls.

Like the senate bills supported by Gardner, a court decision to end Obamacare would have wide consequences, including Medicare coverage.

The death of Obamacare would throw millions of people of the country’s health insurance rolls, according to multiple analysis.

(more…)

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BS Comes Home: Obamacare Ruling Jams Cory Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Politico reports on the political implications of a ruling Friday by a federal judge in Texas, striking down the 2010 Affordable Care Act in its entirety–and setting up a final showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court that could end in millions of Americans losing their health coverage:

Congress was ready to move on from Obamacare.

The midterm elections took repeal off the table, and Democrats were gearing up for a party-defining fight over “Medicare for all.” But Friday night’s ruling by a federal judge in Texas that the Affordable Care Act must be scrapped once again puts the law front and center as Democrats prepare to take back the House just weeks from now.

The ruling is sure to be appealed, and the Trump administration says it’s business as usual in the meantime. But the decision spells bad news for Republicans, by allowing Democrats to replay a potent health care message that helped them flip 40 House seats: that the GOP remains hellbent on gutting Obamacare and rolling back protections for pre-existing conditions…

Colorado Public Radio attempts to put a number on the threat to Coloradans:

The federal judge struck down the entire law, also known as Obamacare. The law will remain in place while the ruling is on appeal, but if it stands, the decision applies to all of the ACA’s protections and regulations, and could strip health insurance coverage from 20 million Americans.

The nonpartisan Colorado Consumer Health Initiative says that includes more than 600,000 Coloradans, because the ruling would scrap both the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid and federal financial assistance for coverage in the individual marketplace.

The political consequences of this decision are for the moment more important, but the rightward hardening of the U.S. Supreme Court make the threat of this new adverse ruling much greater in terms of actually repealing en masse the landmark 2010 law responsible for reducing the rate of uninsured across the nation and in Colorado to historic lows. However the case resolves, Republican failure to replace the Affordable Care Act during their two-year period of total control in Washington leaves that party politically responsible for negative outcomes on the issue over the next two years–and at the same time, any solution now must include House Democrats, who have no reason to either make concessions that would be harmful to those covered today or assume the blame for a poorly-crafted GOP fix.

Sitting in the middle of this increasingly perilous situation is Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of the most vulnerable 2020 GOP Senators who campaigned for office on a sloganized promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” Gardner was the figurehead of a wide-ranging campaign of misinformation in Colorado about the Affordable Care Act, falsely claiming that hundreds of thousands of Coloradans “had their coverage cancelled” even as the law drove the rate of uninsured down. This misinformation was uncritically reprinted by local media, deepening public confusion over the law and driving down its popularity.

We’ve said for years that a day of reckoning could very well come for Cory Gardner, when he would be forced to reconcile his bogus claims that “hundreds of thousands of Coloradans lost coverage” with the prospect of hundreds of thousands of Coloradans actually losing coverage via Gardner’s own stated goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Obviously for the sake of those 600,000+ Coloradans, we were not eager to see this as vengefully satisfying as it may be.

Now, just in time for Gardner’s re-election campaign, it looks like that day could be at hand.

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Candidates Humenik And Jensen Submit Near-Identical Answers To Hometown Newspapers

(Oops – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Beth Humenik (R, center right).

Candidates Christine Jensen of Arvada and Rep. Beth Martinez-Humenik (R-Thornton) have a lot in common. Both are Republican women running for Colorado state senate seats in highly competitive suburban swing districts. Both answered the same five questions from their local community newspapers and both gave nearly identical answers to those questions. The answers aren’t just substantially similar; they are structurally the same and often word-for-word identical.

Colorado Community Media (CCM) published the Q&A style interviews two weeks ago. CCM owns eighteen weekly local papers around the Denver metro area,  Five questions were posed to every statehouse candidate running in a district covered by a CCM paper. The first and last question were open-ended, make-your-case questions, while the other three addressed specific policies and priorities.

Compare Humenik’s answer and Jensen’s answer to the question, “What can the Legislature do to ease the strain of rising housing prices on Colorado residents?” The bolded language is identical in each answer.

(more…)

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Cory Gardner Does Another Cory Gardner Thing on Healthcare

FRIDAY UPDATE: As the Washington Post reports, Congressional Republicans are very aware of the political problem they have in not protecting pre-existing conditions:

With less than a month before the midterm elections, endangered Republican lawmakers are mounting a defense against attacks they’re trying to dismantle a core element of the health-care law they fought to eliminate.

Democratic candidates on the campaign trail now regularly accuse Republicans of wanting to take away health-care protections for people with preexisting conditions. They’ve pointed to a lawsuit brought by 20 attorneys general in Republican-led states aiming to overturn the Affordable Care Act as proof the GOP wants to let such protections go down with the health-care law. That’s after Republicans whiffed in their effort to repeal and replace the ACA  last summer.

Vulnerable Republican contenders are responding to the slams by airing campaign ads saying they embrace this portion of the ACA. They’re also introducing a wave of bills in Congress they say would protect those with prior illnesses from losing access to affordable health care. But experts question the efficacy of those measures, saying they seem more designed as protection against Democratic attacks than significant policy solutions, as I helped report in a story with Colby Itkowitz this week. [Pols emphasis]

—–

President Trump (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Healthcare has consistently emerged as the single most important issue for American voters in 2018. When you dig deeper into the numbers, you find that protections for pre-existing conditions — a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — are extremely popular across all political spectrums. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reported last month:

Large majorities of Americans say it is “very important” to retain the ACA provisions that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on a person’s medical history (75%) and from charging sick people more (72%). This includes majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans, as well as majorities of those with and without people with pre-existing conditions in their households.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate took a vote on a measure that sought to get rid of Trump administration efforts to expand short-term health insurance plans (which are often called “junk insurance”) that are intended to kill the ACA, and thus, protections for pre-existing conditions. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES,” and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was a big fat “NO.” Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine voted along with Democrats, but that wasn’t enough to change a 50-50 tie in the Senate. In political terms, this means that you can call Gardner a deciding vote.

As The Journal Times in Wisconsin reports (yeah, that’s right, The Journal Times):

In August, Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin, Labor Sec. Alexander Acosta and Health and Human Services Sec. Eric Hagan issued a rule expanding the duration of these insurance plans that do not comply with Affordable Care Act requirements.

The 2010 ACA law allowed the sale of short-term insurance plans to serve as a stop-gap between long-term plans. The Trump Administration’s rule allows those plans to be extended as long as three years.

The plans are cheaper than long-term plans but do not offer the same level of coverage as plans that comply with the ACA; prescription drugs, pre-existing conditions, pregnancy and mental health coverage are not required to be covered in these short-term plans.

You didn’t seriously believe me, did you?

Anyhoo, let’s get back to Gardner. Colorado’s Republican Senator talks a good amount of gibberish when it comes to healthcare policy (we’ll never forget you, “glide path“), but he generally speaks favorably when it comes to protections for pre-existing conditions. Here’s Gardner in May 2017, via The Denver Post:

“We need to make sure the people with pre-existing conditions continue to have coverage and continue to have access to affordable coverage,” Gardner said.

Here’s Gardner a few months earlier, via Fox 31 Denver:

Gardner was also asked about what he would do about those people who are worried about losing health care coverage with pre-existing conditions if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced.

“Over the past couple of years, my mom survived breast cancer,” Gardner said. “Over the past several weeks, my father has been in and out of the hospital. I haven’t heard anyone say we’re going to get rid of pre-existing conditions coverage.” [Pols emphasis]

Gardner said he is pushing for affordability to make sure insurance is accessible to people with pre-existing conditions.

It was just last April, in fact, when Gardner declared that the Senate “can’t just walk away on healthcare.” Yesterday, Gardner voted along with most Republicans to go ahead and walk away on healthcare.

Cory Gardner is up for re-election in 2020.

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FACT CHECK: Coffman Says He Differs With Trump On Healthcare But He Actually Favors “Straight Repeal” of Obamacare

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora told a reporter Monday that Coffman broke away from Trump on healthcare.

That should sound familiar, if you’ve been following Coffman, because he’s been saying it early and often since last year.

In fact, it’s only partially true. Coffman supports what’s essentially a Trump proposal to repeal Obamacare now–but implement the repeal at an unspecified later date.  In other words, Congress would pass legislation now with a deadline/date for repealing the law sometime in the future.

After the U.S. Senate’s dramatic failure to kill Obamacare, Coffman told a Denver TV station he’d have backed a bill to do away with the national health care law–a move that would likely have pushed millions off the health insurance rolls.

Asked by 9News’ Marshall Zelinger last year (at 1:30 here) if he’d support a “straight repeal” of Obamacare, Coffman said yes.

Zelinger: “What about a straight repeal?”

Coffman: “If you said, ‘Well, okay, we’re going to repeal,’ and the date certain for the repeal was long enough out, where it wouldn’t disrupt the markets, and it gave Congress adequate time, I think that would be appropriate.”

(more…)

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Is Measles Outbreak a Preview for Colorado?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Measles.

The BBC reports that more than 41,000 people in Europe have been infected with measles in the first six months of 2018. There have been 37 deaths caused by this outbreak.

Of the 57 states, districts, territories, and commonwealths in the most recent CDC report on kindergartners who had received the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine Colorado ranked last. Just 87.3% of kindergartners had received the two doses needed to protect them.

In the Ukraine, where 23,000 of the cases in 2018 have occurred, there have been years of problems getting the population vaccinated. Wars, lack of vaccines, and a medical system that makes the US look like a model of competence and efficiency caused the rate to dip as low as 31% of 6 year olds in 2016 from a high of 95% in 2008. The WHO estimates there were 621,000 under- or unvaccinated people in Ukraine in 2017. The good news is that about 80% of them have been given at least a first dose of the MMR vaccine. The bad news is that the outbreak will undoubtedly be used by anti-vaccine lobbyists to “prove” that vaccines are the problem. Ignoring the inconvenient fact that the countries with the lowest vaccination rates are the places with the most infected or dying people.

In 2017 Italy has a similar vaccination rate to Colorado at 85% of school aged children being vaccinated (The Guardian). The 2018 August ECDC report on measles and rubella found 3,341 cases in that country since last year with a rate of 55.1 per million. Five people have died in Italy in the last year. A similar outbreak in Colorado would cause 300 cases of measles.

Colorado is one of 16 states that allow parents to opt out of vaccines for “personal reasons” instead of religious or medical reasons.

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Dems Bust Stapleton On Health Care BS

A press release from Colorado Democrats today highlights some tellingly bad answers from Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton on health care in a new Colorado Springs Gazette story, helpfully pulling them out from behind Phil Anschutz’s paywall for public consumption:

“Stapleton has been a yes-man for Donald Trump’s crusade to rob Coloradans of their health care, and voters aren’t going to be fooled by this sloppy attempt to hide his terrible policies that would result in hundreds of thousands of Coloradans losing their coverage and higher costs for the rest of us.” said Eric Walker, Colorado Democratic Party spokesperson.

Colorado Politics on Stapleton’s lack of a health care plan

“Stapleton has been short on specifics when it comes to his own prescriptions for health care — a page devoted to health care issues appeared on his campaign website only in the last week…”

“Stapleton’s health care plan is built from a blueprint of if’s…”

Colorado Politics on Stapleton lying about Medicaid expansion:

“Stapleton said when he became treasurer in 2011, the state budget was about $18 billion. This year it topped $29 billion, and he blames much of that spending on the Medicaid expansion.

“That’s misleading, however. Most of that money came from the federal government, not directly from Colorado taxpayers at the expense of other budget needs, such as transportation or education.” [Pols emphasis]

Blaming the expansion of Medicaid for the state’s inability to pay for other priorities is common practice for Colorado Republicans, since it gives them both large scary numbers to throw around as well as the added bonus of pitting the so-called “makers” against the so-called “takers.” It doesn’t actually work if you understand that the Medicaid expansion was a federally-funded expansion, and didn’t come out of any other state budgetary buckets.

Along with the fictional portrayal of single-payer health care as a new expense of trillions of dollars when it would in fact save trillions in existing health care expenses, these are part of a long history of scare tactics from Republicans on health care that do not hold up to even rudimentary scrutiny. In the end they are arguments that rely on an ignorant voter in order to achieve their goal, and that should be the lede for every story about health care in the governor’s race unless Stapleton changes course.

Which we don’t really expect.

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Progressive Activist With Degenerative Disease Can’t Find Congressman Tipton at Pueblo Town Hall Meeting

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

If you had a horrible disease and didn’t know how long you were going to live, would you spend your days driving around the country chasing down politicians who cast votes to repeal Obamacare?

That’s what Ady Barkan is doing. The progressive activist, who has nerve-degenerating Lou Gehrig’s disease, is spending 42 days in an RV on a mission that led him to Pueblo last Sunday in search of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO).

Tipton, according to a video Tweeted by Barkan, was invited to a Pueblo town-hall meeting on health care issues, but didn’t show up, leading Barkan to pull out a cardboard cutout of the Congressman, who’s represented southwestern Colorado since 2010, when he defeated Democrat John Salazar.

Barkan’s video shows the Tipton-less meeting, with folks directing questions about health care at the cutout and Barkan saying the Congressman “seems reticent” to answer the queries, drawing laughs from the group.

Barkan, who gained viral fame when he pleaded with Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in 2017 to save lives by voting against the Trump tax bill, speaks slowly in his video, claiming Tipton hasn’t held a town hall meeting in Pueblo since 2016.

Tipton’s office did return a call seeking to know why he’s avoided Pueblo–or if he could dispute the no-show allegation.

“The point is to highlight for the American people just how irresponsible and unresponsive their congress members are,” Barkan told the Reno Gazette Journal, explaining his tour. “They refuse to prioritize our best interests.”

Health care issues are a top concern of voters in southwestern Colorado, according to one recent poll from a Democratic pollster.

Tipton represents what’s been considered a solidly Republican district, but national political analysts at the Cook Political Report recently determined that Democrats have a greater chance to win Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District this year than they have in recent elections, though Tipton is still favored.

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Christine Jensen Wants to Repeal/Replace Obamacare Because…Um…

(Asked to clarify, Jensen…could not — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Christine Jensen

At a campaign stop last month in Wheat Ridge, Colorado State Senate candidate Christine Jensen said “abuses abound” in Colorado’s health insurance program for the poor, which, she said, is a significant cause of Colorado’s budget woes.

“There are some that would much rather drive a nicer car than pay for the health care for their own family,” said Jensen, a Republican, in a Facebook video of the event.

Asked yesterday to clarify how many such people are in the Medicaid program, Jensen said she didn’t know the specifics but it “needs to be investigated.”

The Colorado Times Recorder was unable to identify records that illuminate how many Medicaid recipients are doing this, and how much money could be saved from taking away their health insurance.

Jensen also said that the state has a “moral obligation” to provide health insurance for poor people who “truly need it,” but she said in the video that there are “not nearly enough” efforts to crack down on Medicaid abuses.

 

(more…)

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Republican Attacks on Health Care Blamed for Increase in Rates

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado health insurers have asked state regulators to approve rate increases for health insurance plans averaging about six percent in the individual and seven percent for small groups, according to data released today by the Colorado Division of Insurance.

That’s less of a price increase than last year’s uptick but still bad news for consumers, say progressive watchdogs, who blame Republicans for driving up health insurance rates by attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, and by blocking state laws that could have stabilized prices.

“For a change, most Coloradans aren’t facing massive hikes in their health insurance premiums for next year,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI) in a news release. “This really shows the strength of the Affordable Care Act, that despite ongoing GOP sabotage, Colorado’s insurance premiums are more stable this year. However, Coloradans are still struggling to afford their insurance after big rate hikes last year. Coloradans will still see a range of proposed premium changes ranging from -2.64 percent to 21.6 percent in the individual insurance market depending on their insurer and plan.”

In recent years, rural regions of Colorado saw the biggest increase in health insurance premiums. But the rate of such increases appears to have slowed.

“Consumers in the Western and Mountain regions of the state won’t be hit by double-digit increases this year. In fact, they’ll see Anthem asking for a small decrease in their rates,” said Fox. “Even so, considering last year Anthem requested a rate increase of over 30 percent, affordability is still a big concern for Coloradans in these areas. We could have seen more and larger rate decreases this year if it weren’t for the ongoing GOP sabotage creating uncertainty.”

Next year, seven companies in Colorado will be offering insurance plans through Connect for Health for individuals. They are: Anthem (as HMO Colorado), Bright Health, Cigna Health and Life, Denver Health Medical Plans, Friday Health Plans, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado and Rocky Mountain HMO.

These are the same same companies that sold insurance to on the individual market last year in Colorado, and as in the past, all counties in Colorado will have at least one on-exchange company selling individual health plans.

In total, sixteen companies will offer insurance in Colorado, including those firms that offer group plans.

Kaiser, with the bulk of the individual market enrollments through Connect for Health Colorado, has requested a 7.49 percent increase, Bright Health a 9.7 percent increase, Friday Health Plans 7.5 percent. Rocky Mountain HMO has requested 5.69 percent, and Cigna is asking for a 8.76 percent increase for their plans.

“I’m very pleased to see that we kept the same seven companies selling on-exchange plans,” said Interim Colorado Division of Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway in a news release. “Last year we worked hard to keep them in Colorado and I think that work is reflected in their decisions for 2019.”

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Yes, Reporters Still Think You’re Stupid on Health Care

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

One of the biggest factors undermining the popularity of the Affordable Care Act ever since its passage in 2010 was the broad prevalence of misinformation about the law’s provisions and effects. This misinformation ranged from the wildly inaccurate–“death panels” and similar baseless nonsense–to much more subtle inaccuracies like bogus 2014 story in the Denver Post about “$10,000 individual deductibles” and Sen. Cory Gardner’s wantonly deceptive claims of “hundreds of thousands of policy cancellations.” For every news story that accurately explains the law’s benefits and problems, there have been a dozen just plain wrong stories that served to needlessly mislead and scare the public.

Health care is one of those issues where it’s very easy for anyone lacking the specialized knowledge of both the existing system and proposals to reform it to get the story wrong. Because Democrats have been on the defensive over health care for nearly eight years in defense of the Affordable Care Act, such misinformation–intentional and unintended–has generally resulted in political liability for Democrats. As a result, Republicans have been very…tolerant of health care misinformation, to put it mildly.

Case in point: a new extremely uninformed attack on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis from the Phil-Anschutz-owned Walker Stapleton-loving Colorado Springs Gazette:

Jared Polis has a new ad touting his strong support for universal health care. The 2016 election might suggest it’s a lost cause as far as the Colorado electorate goes.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate and sitting congressman touts Medicare-for-All, a load-bearing pillar of universal health care. A similarly purposed Amendment 69, the so-called ColoradoCare single-payer plan, took a 4-to-1 thumping, just two years ago.

Full stop. Amendment 69, the state-level universal health care proposal that was shellacked at the polls in 2016, is a totally different animal from the Medicare For All proposal being proposed at the federal level. The biggest and most essential difference is that Medicare For All would be implemented nationwide, eliminating one of the biggest problems with Amendment 69’s plan to implement single-payer health care all by Colorado’s drop-in-the-bucket self. Other small states like Vermont attempting to implement single-payer health coverage on their own quickly discovered the numbers don’t work. A nationwide solution is the only solution.

Almost 79% of Colorado voters voted against Amendment 69, including (this is very important) thousands of progressive Democrats who support “universal health care.” The prior example of Vermont combined with specific problems with the way Amendment 69 would roll out single-payer coverage, like the conflict with Colorado’s constitution that would have eliminated coverage for abortion, are what doomed it to such a lopsided fate–not opposition to the concept of universal health care.

The difference between the state-level Amendment 69 and nationwide proposals for universal health care like the Medicare For All plan being embraced by Democratic candidates at all levels this year is great enough that to simply equate the two like this story does is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. Either the author is too ignorant to know the difference, or he does know and is willingly misleading his readers.

In the end, the effect is the same.

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Health Care Sticker Shock: Can’t Blame Obama Anymore

President Barack Obama, with close ally Satan (right).

The Summit Daily News reports on the death of legislation at the hands of the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate that would have helped residents in mountain towns and other remote parts of the state offset the outlandishly high cost of health coverage–thus perpetuating by Republican action a problem Republicans have laid at the feet of Democrats for years:

Two bills meant to help give Coloradans relief on health insurance premiums, especially residents of mountain counties like Summit, were both shot down Friday.

HB 1384, which sought to explore more affordable health care coverage options, and HB 1392, meant to significantly reduce premiums by buffering insurers against high-cost insurance claims, were both buried in 3-2 votes by Republican state senators Hill, Marble and Sonnenberg.

The bills would have tried to address skyrocketing premiums in the state. According to an analysis from the Colorado Health Institute, health insurance premiums in Colorado have risen by 76 percent since 2014, with a 32 percent jump since last year. The increase is driven primarily by an exodus of insurance carriers from the state, as well as uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act under the Trump administration. HB 1384 would have studied more options for a health care system to avoid such pitfalls, including public-private partnerships and local insurance pools.

The failure to pass HB 1392, despite support in the state House, is particularly disappointing for many advocates for lower premiums in Summit and the western slope. The bill would have created a “reinsurance” program that would help health insurers pay for particularly expensive insurance claims, lowering their costs and passing on the savings to consumers. Reinsurance would have also stabilized prices for an individual health market that has been in constant flux for years.

For years after the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act in 2010, Republicans in control of Congress (and their allies in state legislatures) resisted even the most basic, common-sense fixes to problems that were identified as the law began to operate. The stated intention was political, with Republicans claiming that to attempt to fix “Obamacare” would saddle them with responsibility for a law they insisted was inherently flawed and could only be repealed once Republicans took back the White House. As a result, among many other consequences, the Western Slope of Colorado endured huge premium increases and dwindling choices for coverage that weren’t felt in other areas of the state.

But that was then. Today, Republicans have had total control of the federal government for over a year–and in that one year they inflicted so much political damage trying and repeatedly failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act that they’ve simply given up. Trump’s thoughtless executive orders have damaged the system, and Republicans zeroed out the penalty for not obtaining coverage, but millions of Americans who very much need and want the coverage they’ve obtained through the law still depend on it.

What does this mean? It means the failure to take action to solve problems with the ACA’s implementation is now a political liability for Republicans in an election year. It’s too late to point the finger at Obamacare. The sole reason there will be no relief for hard-pressed health coverage buyers in rural Colorado is that Republicans in the Colorado Senate said no.

And that is not going to play well in Paonia.

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