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Governor chided for mulling ‘blackmail tactics’ to keep insurer on board Obamacare

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 9, 2017 - Updated: June 9, 2017

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iStock image / zimmytws

Actually, the pro-GOP advocacy group Compass Colorado used even stronger language in a shot at Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper this week over his proposed use of carrot and stick on insurers to keep the state’s health insurance exchange viable. The governor himself put a more pragmatic spin on it.

At issue is the governor’s acknowledgment Wednesday on Colorado Public Radio’s Colorado Matters that he might cut Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield out of lucrative Medicaid contracts administered by the state if the insurance giant exits the state’s health insurance exchange, set up under Obamacare. It’s one option under consideration and is similar to a plan announced by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

“We’ve certainly talked about that,” Hickenlooper said, “… as a way to try to provide motivation that more insurers cover all parts of the state — or at least a number of parts of the state.”

That prompted a press statement from Compass Executive Director Kelly Maher:

“Apparently, mob-style blackmail tactics are an acceptable way to conduct business if you’re the Governor. … Demanding a private company bail out the state health exchange, or face the consequences financially, is like government meets The Godfather.”

Like its counterparts in other states, Colorado’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, was established under Obamacare to let individuals and small businesses compare available health plans, select the coverage that best suits them and, if they qualify, receive subsidies to help pay their premiums.

Colorado’s exchange has been the subject of endless partisan debate, much like Obamacare nationally; it also has experienced assorted woes since its inception.

Earlier this year, federal auditors found the exchange had misspent or failed to account for some $9.7 million in grants used to set up the program. Of greater concern, though, has been the exodus of insurers like Anthem from the exchange because they are losing money, as well as soaring premiums for individual health plans acquired through the exchange.

According to the CPR report, if Anthem drops out of the exchange, Coloradans in 14 counties would be unable to use the exchange to help them buy health coverage.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.