Hickenlooper ‘relieved’ Senate won’t vote on Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill

Author: Ernest Luning - September 26, 2017 - Updated: September 27, 2017

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee during a hearing to discuses ways to stabilize health insurance markets​ on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee during a hearing to discuses ways to stabilize health insurance markets​ on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Tuesday he’s “relieved” the Senate has abandoned plans to vote on the latest Republican-sponsored effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and urged lawmakers to get back to work on a bipartisan fix for the Obama health care law.

After three GOP senators said they wouldn’t support the most recent plan to repeal the law, known as Obamacare, Senate leaders said Tuesday afternoon they would scrap legislation sponsored by Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Hickenlooper, a Colorado Democrat, has been among the leaders of a bipartisan group of governors asking Senate Republicans to reject attempts to repeal the law, known as Obamacare, and instead work with Democrats to “bring stability and affordability to our insurance markets.”

“We are relieved that the Senate has decided to put aside the flawed Graham-Cassidy bill that would have hurt hundreds of thousands of Coloradans,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.

“We urge Senate leaders to return to regular order and support bipartisan work to improve our health care system. We encourage Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray to return to the negotiating table and quickly finalize a package to stabilize the individual insurance market and help make individual health insurance more affordable. We stand ready to work with Congress and expand our scope to address the underlying drivers of health care costs.”

Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Murray, a Washington Democrat, are the two senior members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which has been holding hearings about bipartisan measures that had won support from Hickenlooper and the group of governors, state regulators, insurers and others in the health care industry.

As the Graham-Cassidy legislation picked up steam last week, Alexander abruptly halted the talks and said he didn’t see a path to compromise, but Tuesday after the collapse of the Graham-Cassidy bill he said he plans to restart the talks.

“I will consult with Senator Murray and with other senators, both Republicans and Democrats, to see if senators can find consensus on a limited bipartisan plan that could be enacted into law to help lower premiums and make insurance available to the 18 million Americans in the individual market in 2018 and 2019,” Alexanders said in a statement.

Hickenlooper testified before the committee in early September, outlining a stabilization package proposed by the governors.

“In Colorado, we are stretching federal dollars and pinching pennies,” he said. “We’re reducing costs and promoting a competitive market while improving care and increasing transparency. We have a lot to be proud of, but recent federal action — and inaction — is undermining our efforts. It’s time for the federal government to work with us, not against us.”

Insurers have said they wouldn’t have to raise rates for individuals as much as they’ve proposed if Congress can pass legislation to bring certainty and stability to the markets. Next year’s premiums for markets that use the federally run site are supposed to be finalized Wednesday.

This story has been updated to include a statement from Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.