Colorado politicians, hospitals and analysts react to Senate Republican draft of health care bill | MyWindsorNow.com

Colorado politicians, hospitals and analysts react to Senate Republican draft of health care bill

Kelly Ragan
kragan@greeleytribune.com

Two Colorado Republicans said Thursday they were satisfied with the Senate version of the health care reform bill revealed Thursday, though they needed time to review the legislation in full.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. said he hasn't yet had time to read and analyze the 147-page bill in its entirety, but he said for the most part, it's similar to what the House passed. Buck voted for the House bill, known as the American Health Care Act, and has been a vocal supporter of it.

He said the Senate version is poised to drive down premiums for people in their 50s and 60s, for which he's glad. He also supports the effort to maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions.

"I'm confident, in the final version, those will be covered," Buck said.

He does see some room for improvement in flexibility.

"I'm hopeful we will all agree to give states the flexibility for Medicaid work requirements," Buck said. "I believe flexibility will drive down costs."

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Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., was one of 13 Republican senators charged with helping to prepare the draft of the bill, which is dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act. He said in a statement it was important to look at the legislation before coming to any conclusions.

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

Senate leaders made the draft of their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare public after months of revising it behind closed doors. In broad strokes, it would reshape Medicaid, relax rules on insurers and end tax increases on higher earners that have helped finance expanded coverage for millions.

Colorado Democrats were less enthusiastic about it than their Republican colleagues.

In a statement, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., criticized Republicans for drafting the bill in secret and for failing to address the concerns of Affordable Care Act opponents.

"You couldn't design a bill less responsive to what the opponents of Obamacare have said they want than the bill that recently passed the House of Representatives," Bennet said. "The Senate proposal is just as bad, if not worse, than that legislation because it decreases coverage and increases costs instead of expanding quality and affordable health care."

Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Morgan Carroll also released a statement criticizing Republicans for drafting the bill behind closed doors.

"No wonder Republicans wanted to draft this bill in secret," she said. "It's just that bad."

She went on to say the bill would raise premiums on hard-working folks while offering tax cuts to CEOs.

Officials with one of northern Colorado's largest health care providers, UCHealth, released a statement expressing concern about the potential impact of the bill. In the statement, UCHealth urged Congress to establish sufficient and sustainable federal Medicaid funding to ensure Colorado can protect and maintain its current level of coverage for the Medicaid population.

"It is essential that no one lose their health care coverage and that health care providers receive adequate reimbursement for the care we provide," the statement read. "For these reasons, we encourage Colorado's senators to take the time to understand the implications of the health care bill as currently written before voting."

Emily Johnson is a senior data analyst for the Colorado Health Institute, an independent, nonpartisan policy analysis institute. She said the biggest takeaway from the Senate bill is Medicaid.

"Over the first 10 years, the bill would cut $15 billion in federal funding," Johnson said.

The state budget likely won't make up for that gap, Johnson said, leaving 628,000 Coloradans without coverage.

The Senate will likely vote on the bill next week.

— Kelly Ragan writes features and covers health for The Greeley Tribune. Have a tip? Want to share your story? Call (970) 392-4424, email kragan@greeleytribune.com or connect on Twitter @kelly_raygun.

Senate Republicans reveal draft of health care bill

Read the full text of the bill at http://www.budget.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SENATEHEALTHCARE.pdf.

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