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New health care plan a nightmare for Coloradans? Depends on who you ask

Author: Jakob Rodgers - May 4, 2017 - Updated: May 4, 2017

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One Colorado Republican hailed Thursday’s vote to gut the Affordable Care Act as “a historic day” while another broke rank on a GOP effort years in the making.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., enthusiastically threw his support behind the revived legislation, which passed on a 217-213 vote that largely hewed along party lines.

“Obamacare is one of the worst things President Obama ever did. And it’s hurt many Americans,” Lamborn said. “And this vote today sets us back on the path of restoring a better health care market for Americans.”

Still, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and several other Republicans opposed the American Health Care Act amid concerns about coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

While the proposed law would still mandate that insurers offer coverage to everyone, states could opt to allow carriers to charge much higher prices to sicker patients.

Coffman also cited the lack of a Congressional Budget Office scorecard detailing the proposal’s cost and its effect on the nation’s deficit.

The new legislation drew widespread concern in Colorado’s health care sector – particularity among hospital leaders and providers catering to Medicaid patients.

In March, the CBO said earlier versions of the legislation passed Thursday would leave 24 million Americans without coverage over the next 10 years. And while an early proposal was expected to cut the federal deficit by $337 billion in that time, several amendments six weeks ago reduced those savings by more than half.

The bill’s current price tag remains unknown.

“This does not take away from the fact that the Affordable Care Act is failing and American families are hurting,” said Coffman, in a statement.

Under the plan, nearly 600,000 Coloradans could lose Medicaid coverage and become uninsured by 2030, according to a Colorado Health Institute analysis.

That’s because cuts to federal Medicaid funding would leave the state with $14 billion deficit and few alternatives to dropping coverage for one-third of the state’s Medicaid enrollees, the analysis found.

Coloradans’ health will suffer if the proposal becomes law, said Pam McManus, Peak Vista Community Health Centers’ president and chief executive. Two-thirds of her organization’s 90,000 patients use Medicaid.

“This legislation is going to be very harmful for our patients and our whole community,” McManus said. “This is going to cause Coloradans to lose care that they need.”

Lamborn has called Medicaid “way oversold,” and he voiced support Thursday for slashing it.

“Medicaid will still be there for those who truly need it,” Lamborn said.

He also dismissed his colleague’s concerns about provisions affecting people with pre-existing conditions.

Instead, he touted funding in the legislation for so-called high-risk pools – pots of money that help fund coverage for Americans unable to get insurance elsewhere.

“There’s lots of money there,” he said.

Many health policy experts disagree – warning the bill’s funding is insufficient.

“High risk pools are super expensive to operate, and in most states, they have failed in the past because of a lack of adequate funding,” said Joe Hanel, a Colorado Health Institute spokesman. The Denver-based research institute studies health care issues, and it does not lobby or take positions on proposed legislation.

Donna Lynne, the state’s lieutenant governor and former top executive at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, said the state would not seek such a waiver. She called the high-risk pool “totally not enough” to cover costs.

Now it’s the Senate’s turn.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., assailed the House’s vote – saying in a statement that it “takes us in exactly the wrong direction.”

“I will do everything I can to stop this legislation in the Senate and work in a bipartisan way on real solutions,” his statement said.

But Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., urged action. He said Obamacare is mired in “disarray, and not acting to fix it would have terrible consequences for our state.”

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to complete a measure that leads to more choices, lower costs, and improved care for all Coloradans,” he said in a statement.

Jakob Rodgers