A Republican effort to repeal the state’s health-insurance exchange is a lost cause in the GOP-controlled Senate, despite Republicans making it a priority this year.
First mentioned in Senate President Kevin Grantham’s opening day speech – at which time he said it was “time for us to shed some of the dead weight of failed government policy” – Republican leaders on Monday decided to end the effort.
“What’s happened is a little bit less action on the national level than what we anticipated, that we could get our federal partners to move a little bit quicker,” Grantham said Monday morning.
Republicans had held strong on the issue at the start of the legislative session in January, even as protesters gathered on the steps outside the legislature for a demonstration opposing the Republican effort to repeal Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s marketplace for purchasing health insurance.
Senate Bill 3 passed the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 7. It then wasn’t advanced from the appropriations committee until April 6. The bill has been sitting on the Senate floor since April 10. On Monday, Republican leadership delayed a vote on the bill until after the legislative session, effectively killing the measure.
It faced an uphill battle even if the bill made it out of the Senate, as Democrats vowed to kill the measure in the House.
“Our communities called and emailed us with one clear message, they didn’t want their state legislature to take their health care away,” said Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood. “With this bill’s defeat, Colorado’s hardworking families, mothers, senior citizens, and children can rest easy that unlike Republicans in Congress, their state senators will not be working to take away their health care.”
When Republicans first pushed the measure in January, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, who has a background in insurance brokerage, lamented that despite the exchange, insurance rates in Colorado have skyrocketed. He pointed to rural parts of the state and that fewer companies are offering plans. Smallwood said taxpayers should not be providing millions of dollars for a system that has not worked.
Under Smallwood’s proposal, the exchange would have been repealed on Jan. 1, 2018. Any leftover money would have been transferred to the general fund for discretionary spending.
But the repeal effort came as uncertainty continues to surround what a Republican Congress will do with the Affordable Care Act. Since the exchange was born out of the ACA, it’s possible that a repeal of the federal health care law would send the issue back to the states to resolve, in which an exchange might still be required.
“We thought we had that done where we could get our federal partners to move a little bit quicker,” Grantham said. We thought we had that done where we could actually be able to make the case that the exchange is no longer necessary under the new circumstances in D.C. We’re still waiting for the new circumstance in D.C.”