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Attention protesters: Gardner calls out his own on Obamacare replacement

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Whatever is motivating the Coloradans who for weeks now have been loudly demanding an audience with Colorado’s junior Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner — he has said some are paid activists backed by Democrats; they say they’re aggrieved constituents — it does seem to be having an effect. It’s hard to conclude otherwise.

One of the sore points for those clamoring to see Gardner is his support for repealing and replacing Obamacare with a national health-coverage system of GOP design. Gardner’s stance is hardly out of line with the rest of his party, but critics, led by congressional Democrats, charge the Republicans are on a fool’s errand. They say scrapping Obamacare stands to pull the rug out from under vulnerable segments of the population, including low-income households currently receiving federal Medicaid health coverage.

How better to illustrate concern for those same populations than to join with several Senate GOP colleagues in calling back a version of their own party’s Obamacare replacement authored by Republicans in the House of Representatives? Gardner signed onto a letter today to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky doing just that. Then, Gardner’s office issued this press release:

Today, U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlining concerns that the February 10th draft health care plan from the House does not adequately protect individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or provide necessary flexibility for states.

In the letter, the senators write: “While we support efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and make structural reforms to the Medicaid program, we are concerned that the February 10th draft proposal from the House of Representatives does not provide stability and certainty for individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or the necessary flexibility for states.”

A copy of the full letter to McConnell is provided in the press release. It includes passages that seem to speak directly to those who have been hounding Gardner and some other Republicans:

We believe Medicaid needs to be reformed, but reform should not come at the cost of disruption in access to health care for our country’s most vulnerable and sickest individuals. Any changes made to how Medicaid is financed through the state and federal governments should be coupled with significant new flexibility so they can efficiently and effectively manage their Medicaid programs to best meet their own needs.

None of which is to challenge the depth of Gardner’s commitment to that policy priority. But it also seems pretty clear he wanted to make sure his detractors got the message.

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