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Michael Bennet derides latest effort to repeal Obamacare as ‘Groundhog Day or definition of insanity’

Author: Ernest Luning - September 19, 2017 - Updated: September 20, 2017

Michael BennetU.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. (Photo by Rebecca Blackwell/AP file photo)

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet roasted a last-ditch attempt by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare Tuesday as worse than the GOP’s previous effort and contended that the legislation could derail bipartisan work to repair the nation’s health care system.

“I can’t decide whether this is Groundhog Day or the definition of insanity: every attempt is worse than the last,” the Colorado Democrat said in a statement.

“This latest version cuts nearly $1 billion in funding to Colorado, sets up a nonsensical cliff in coverage, and puts patient protections at risk. The bipartisan process in our committee was making progress. Why would we abandon it now? This is exactly why Coloradans have lost so much faith in Washington,” Bennet said.

Bennet, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has been a consistent critic of GOP-sponsored bills to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Since January, he’s been urging GOP lawmakers to open up the legislative process and work across the aisle — an approach that appeared to be taking hold last month after Senate Republicans fell a single vote short in their last try to undo President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

“I am all for working together in a bipartisan way to address the issues in our healthcare system — that go far beyond the Affordable Care Act — to make sure people in America do not have to continue to make choices other people all over the world are not having to make,” Bennet said in a Senate floor speech earlier this summer.

Bennet’s Republican colleague, Sen. Cory Gardner, who had a hand in drafting an earlier version of an Obamacare repeal bill, is considering the Graham-Cassidy legislation, a spokesman told Colorado Politics Tuesday.

“Premiums on the individual market are projected to go up an average of 26.7 percent next year in Colorado, so Congress should continue to discuss ways to allow states like Colorado to be more in control of health care decisions rather than Washington, D.C.,” said Gardner press secretary Casey Contres. “Washington could use Colorado solutions. Senator Gardner will review this proposal and any others that try to fix our broken system.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been furiously whipping votes on a renewed measure — sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana — ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline to avoid facing a Democratic filibuster because of budget rules that expire at the end of the fiscal year.

The bill would do away with key components of the Affordable Care Act, including mandates that most Americans buy insurance and that companies offer coverage to their employees. It would also institute block grants to states, allow states to set their own coverage rules and make it possible for insurers to charge more for customers with serious and preexisting conditions.

Senate Democrats are unanimously opposed to the Graham-Cassidy bill, arguing that the legislation would result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance, decrease access to affordable care and severely damage the Medicaid insurance program for the poor.

Earlier Tuesday, a bipartisan group of governors led by Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper and Ohio Republican John Kasich sent a letter to McConnell and his Democratic counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer,  calling on them to reject the Graham-Cassidy bill and instead undertake “bipartisan efforts to make health care more available and affordable for all Americans.”

Hickenlooper and Kasich introduced a health care proposal last month that included immediate federal action to stabilize health care markets, an active federal and state partnership and what the governors termed responsible reforms that would preserve coverage gains and control costs.

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.