Scott TiptonScott TiptonSeptember 12, 20178min590

Over the month of August, my team and I traveled over 1,700 miles across the 3rd Congressional District and state of Colorado, making over 30 stops to discuss the most pressing issues facing our nation. I had the privilege of visiting with local economic development leaders, county commissioners, school boards, health care providers, veterans groups, substance abuse professionals and many others — including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. He visited the Gold King Mine site on the two-year anniversary of the toxic spill to reassure the community that the EPA is prioritizing cleanup of the site and will make those impacted by the spill whole.

There are a few themes that I heard throughout the month no matter where I was, and it is clear that jobs and the economy, health care, and the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic are top of mind for many Coloradans.

In Colorado, we have a tale of two economies. While resort towns and major metropolitan areas are thriving, there are many communities on the Western Slope, Front Range, and in the San Luis Valley where families are struggling. The legacy of heavy-handed federal regulations is still preventing the private sector in these communities from creating jobs and supporting economic security.

According to the Small Business Administration’s 2016 statistics, small businesses support 49 percent of Colorado’s workforce. Small businesses are truly the backbone of our state’s economy, and we must do everything we can to support entrepreneurs and job creators. Unfortunately, a 2014 study by the Brookings Institute showed an alarming trend: in recent years, the number of small businesses that have shut down exceeds the number that have opened their doors. Nowhere has this trend been felt more profoundly than in rural America, where small businesses are responsible for approximately two-thirds of all jobs.

As a former small business owner, my focus in Congress has been on advancing policies that will create an environment where we see more businesses opening than closing each year. When more businesses open, struggling families have more job opportunities and a better chance at achieving financial stability.

While it takes time to undo nearly a decade of harmful regulatory policies, we are making progress on this front in the 115th Congress. So far this year, Congress passed and the president has signed 14 congressional resolutions of disapproval that roll back unnecessary, overly burdensome federal regulations, and the House passed the REINS Act (H.R. 26), which would require Congressional approval of any regulation that would have an economic impact of $100 million or more. Although we still have a long way to go, I am confident that we are heading in the right direction to deliver more job opportunities and economic stability to families in the 3rd Congressional District.

The Colorado Division of Insurance recently announced that premiums in the state’s individual health insurance market will increase by 26.7 percent on average in 2018. This is on top of the 20 percent increase in 2017 and 24 percent increase in 2016. The trajectory is unsustainable and unacceptable. We must repeal and replace the so-called Affordable Act and bring affordable health insurance to the 3rd Congressional District.

In May, the House made important progress towards this goal by passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill would drive down the cost of health insurance and bring competition and choice to the market, while ensuring that individuals who have pre-existing conditions maintain access to affordable health insurance. In addition to the AHCA, the House also passed bills to begin medical tort reform — an issue that needs to be addressed in order to drive down health care costs — and allow small businesses and associations to provide insurance options for their employees or members across state lines, which will give individuals and families more choices when it comes to their insurance coverage. These bills were the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215), Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 1101), and the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 372).

The Senate has not yet passed the AHCA or a health care bill of its own that would allow both chambers to compromise on final legislation. It is beyond time for the Senate to act.

As I have traveled our district to speak with the men and women who work on the front lines of the opioid abuse epidemic, it has become clear to me that Colorado has some of the most dedicated doctors, nurses, counselors, and substance abuse professionals in the country. The president recently declared the opioid abuse epidemic a national emergency, and I have been committed to ensuring our communities have the resources they need to develop and sustain prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.

In 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act and Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) were both signed into law. These bills authorized programs to provide states with more resources to expand opioid abuse prevention and treatment efforts. As a result of these bills, Colorado received $7.8 million to support prevention, treatment, and recovery services, and the Department of Health and Human Services has made $75.9 million in competitive grants available to state mental health and substance abuse agencies.

I continue to receive feedback on how the federal government can better support Colorado’s efforts to fight the opioid abuse epidemic, and I’m committed to incorporating this feedback into policy decisions that are made in Washington.

Congress has a full agenda between now and the end of the year. If you have any questions about bills that are up for a vote or my work on your behalf, please do not hesitate to give my office in Washington, DC, a call at 202-225-4761. You can also write to me on my website, www.tipton.house.gov.


Jimmy SengenbergerJimmy SengenbergerSeptember 5, 20177min529
Jimmy Sengenberger
Jimmy Sengenberger

It’s refreshing to see solutions to complex problems plaguing this country come out of the “laboratories of democracy,” the states.  On the surface, that is precisely what Colorado’s own Gov. John Hickenlooper and Ohio Gov. John Kasich did in presenting a health care plan to congressional leaders last week: They shared ideas straight from the states.

On one hand, this is a good thing.  State governors ought to take a proactive interest in major congressional efforts over national policy issues with direct state implications.

But the founding fathers didn’t intend for governors to share ideas for federal overlords to then carry out.  They intended for state governors to implement ideas in their own states, as individual laboratories across the land, and to experiment with new solutions to pressing challenges.  The beauty of this model of federalism is that it protects the entire nation from falling prey to a failed, one-sized-fits-all approach to a substantial issue.

Unfortunately, in their proposed plan to address Obamacare’s collapse, Govs. Hickenlooper and Kasich essentially cede their laboratory power to the feds by presenting ideas almost exclusively for greater federal actions — not by advocating for more authority to the states.  If they favored the latter, then they might advocate for the repeal-and-replace legislation put forward by Senators Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

In a new analysis of the Hickenlooper-Kasich plan for the Millennial Policy Center (MPC), my health care reform colleagues and I argue that the plan is well-intentioned and offers some ideas worthy of debate and consideration, but it’s like placing a Band-Aid over a gushing wound.  You hope it will stop the bleeding but are sure to be sorely disappointed.

The governors’ plan essentially boosts subsidies for individuals and insurance companies, appropriates additional funding for cost-sharing subsidies and creates a $15 billion reinsurance fund to help states aid insurers in offsetting the expense of sicker patients.  It also suggests a $100 million advertising campaign to get young people to sign up for Obamacare.

Regrettably, Hickenlooper and Kasich essentially propose throwing more money at the problem, hoping that something sticks, while notably ignoring the primary cost-drivers of health insurance and leaving both the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion intact.

Health insurance regulations are the primary stimulus for skyrocketing costs.  As reported in the MPC analysis, a comprehensive review finds that Obamacare’s mandated “essential health benefits” raise the cost of insurance by 9%, and another analysis shows its various mandates — EHBs, community rating, age rating, etc. — increase health insurance costs by up to 68%.  The governors do suggest offering states a bit more flexibility when it comes to EHBs, but it’s not enough to bend the cost curve.

If the goal is to bring down costs, then we must address the main cost drivers in the first place.  How many young, healthy Millennials who are not currently insured are going to buy it because someone on TV tells them to?  If the costs still outweigh the benefits, one won’t purchase insurance no matter how many commercials they see.

It is good to see Gov. Hickenlooper weigh in on the health care debate. Coloradans on the individual market are bracing for premium increases of 27% next year, an overwhelming amount on top of already-staggering premiums and rising deductibles.  It makes sense that our elected governor would take a position on such a decisive issue.  Unfortunately, he seems to have taken the wrong tack.

The best solutions come about when the states implement their own visions.  The proposal put forward by Sens. Cassidy and Graham — which is still on the table in Congress before the reconciliation time window runs out on September 30 — would return power to the states by permitting each to customize their health care systems to the unique needs of their residents, with federal support, and by block granting Medicaid.

As my MPC healthcare team wrote in our recent analysis of Cassidy-Graham, “Offering states the flexibility to develop their own solutions and innovative strategies to lower costs, improve access, and expand coverage will produce a variety of best practices rather than forcing a failed or untested one-size-fits-all approach on the entire country.”

Govs. Hickenlooper and Kasich should be commended for taking a leadership role from the states on this crucial issue. With individual insurance markets in a death spiral, the challenges of healthcare costs and access cannot be ignored.  However, we need much more than a top-down, federally-placed Band-Aid over this gushing wound called Obamacare.  We need to return genuine power to the laboratories of democracy.


Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 1, 20173min209
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday continued his marathon assault against Republican efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act. The Democrat focused on “ongoing threats to undermine and defund our health care system,” underscoring President Trump’s proposal to default on making cost-sharing reduction payments on health insurance. “On a state level we see firsthand in very […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 27, 20173min224

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, again joined with Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio in a bipartisan showing of opposition to the U.S. Senate health care bill.

Hickenlooper and Kasich brought together a group of 10 governors in sending a letter to Senate leadership to voice their concerns with the legislation.

The governors call upon the Senate “to reject efforts to amend the bill into a ‘skinny repeal,’” which the elected officials fear would result in fewer Americans having access to coverage.

The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York.

“We urge you to set aside this flawed bill and work with governors, both Democrats and Republicans, on solutions that will make health care more available and affordable for every American. True, lasting reforms can only be achieved in an open, bipartisan fashion,” the letter states.

In addition to Hickenlooper and Kasich, governors from Louisiana, Montana, Virginia, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Vermont signed the letter. Hickenlooper and Kasich have been routinely speaking out against congressional health reform efforts in recent weeks.

The Senate this week narrowly approved a procedural motion to begin debate on legislation aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act. The question is what Republicans come up with to replace so-called “Obamacare.” The Senate has settled in for a lengthy debate on various proposals.

The focus is on a so-called “skinny bill,” which would rollback the Obama-era health care law on individual and employer mandates.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, voted this week to move ahead with debate, lending a crucial vote that contributed to the dramatic 51-50 victory for President Trump, in which Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

The 10 governors in their letter pointed to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who returned from Arizona, where he is battling brain cancer, to cast a crucial vote on proceeding on the health care debate. McCain called for a “return to regular order” and working across the aisle.

“Congress should be working to make health insurance more affordable while stabilizing the health insurance market, but this bill and similar proposals won’t accomplish these goals,” the governors wrote to Senate leaders.

They hope to fix unstable insurance markets and control costs.

“The next best step is for senators and governors of both parties to come together to work to improve our health care system,” the governors wrote. “We stand ready to work with lawmakers in an open, bipartisan way to provide better insurance for all Americans.”


Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 13, 20174min298

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman will hold a town hall meeting on Aug. 1 in Henderson as protests continue over GOP-led health reform efforts.

The town hall planned for 6 p.m. at Prairie View High School follows a meeting the congressman held in April when an angry crowd assailed him, resulting in national headlines.

Protesters repeatedly hammered Coffman on health care during the April town hall in Aurora, located in the 6th Congressional District, one of the most competitive districts in the nation.

Coffman is facing a challenge by several Democrats, who are battling in a spirited primary.

Former Obama adviser Levi Tillemann announced his campaign at the end of June. Attorneys Jason Crow and David Aarestad are also filed in the race, as is Littleton resident Gabriel McArthur.

An advisory for the planned August Coffman town hall says, “During the town hall meeting, Coffman looks forward to a robust and informative discussion about all of the critical issues facing our community, state, and nation.”

Coffman also plans to discuss his upcoming legislative agenda.

Registration is required for the event. For those who can’t attend, it will be live-steamed on Facebook.

Coffman is sure to again find himself answering questions on Republican-led health reform efforts, despite trying to distinguish himself from other Republicans in the conversation.

Coffman on Tuesday sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, offering an “alternative approach” to replacing the Affordable Care Act.

“I believe we all share a common objective of making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans,” Coffman wrote.

He outlined a three-step approach, including addressing Medicaid expansion through budget reconciliation, a maneuver that allows the majority to bypass a filibuster. Coffman also proposed using reconciliation to repeal the individual and employer mandates and several ACA taxes and penalties.

The second step would be to address taxes and penalties that impact wealthy Americans through a separate tax reform effort in Congress.

Coffman’s third proposal would be to tackle reform to health insurance exchanges through a separate bipartisan legislative process.

“We should take an approach that does not impact those Medicaid services unrelated to the ACA’s expansion, such as skilled nursing for seniors, services for children, and for the disabled,” Coffman wrote in the letter.

“I think we should continue the Medicaid Expansion program as an optional Medicaid program, but only if it has a cost share no different than the standard FMAP (Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentages) for each respective state.

“It makes no sense to me for the federal government, under the ACA, to pay 90 percent or more for an able-bodied adult without dependent children, but 50 percent for a disabled child.”

Coffman also supports switching states to a block grant model for Medicaid expansion funding.

“We should also expect all able-bodied working-age individuals, seeking public assistance, to demonstrate that they are affirmatively taking steps to become self-sufficient,” he continued in the letter.


Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 12, 20174min236

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper continued his push against GOP-led federal health care reform this week, suggesting that progress in Colorado would be curtailed.

The governor used a recently released “State of Health Scorecard” to underscore his message. In 2013, the state set goals around reducing costs and improving the quality of health care. Hickenlooper said the state has completed most of the targets, in some cases going beyond the initial goals.

Examples given are that 93 percent of Coloradans have coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Access has also expanded in Colorado, with the state recruiting over 550 doctors and nurses, many in rural communities.

Hickenlooper said Medicaid in Colorado has saved the state more than $280 million since 2013 by reducing emergency room visits and increasing preventative care.

But federal health reform efforts in the U.S. House and Senate threaten to rollback that progress, Hickenlooper said. He added that Colorado would see a cut of about $1.5 billion per year from its Medicaid budget based on the Senate version.

“It’s worth looking at the Senate bill and what that would do to all of the progress that we have had. How much it would push us backwards,” Hickenlooper said Monday, standing outside the Federico F. Peña Southwest Family Health Center in Denver.

The governor acknowledged that the state still has more work to do on health reform, pointing out that opioid deaths have tripled over the past 15 years. And while Colorado is still the thinnest state in America, obesity rates are going up.

The Federico F. Peña Southwest Family Health Center serves patients who have benefited from coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act.

“All of us at Denver Health are very concerned about what a rollback of that Medicaid expansion would look like,” said  Robin Wittenstein, chief executive of Denver Health. “We certainly hope that the decision-makers in Washington will realize that leaving 22 million Americans without insurance is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Hickenlooper took issue with the notion that the Senate health reform bill was crafted in secret, without Democratic input.

Colorado Politics asked U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, one of 13 Republicans to work on the legislation, about the bill being crafted behind closed doors.

“This is the outcome of the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in the most partisan of fashions. Not a single Republican vote was a part of it,” Gardner said. “I hope that can change. I hope Democrats will start working on a solution.”

“Two rights don’t make a wrong,” Hickenlooper responded. “The Affordable Care Act is a very different document that had it just been done in secret by one party.”


Ernest LuningErnest LuningJuly 7, 20174min2026

It wasn't how state Rep. Justin Everett, a Littleton Republican and candidate for state treasurer, planned on spending his day, but relentless campaigning — covering some 31 counties in three months without a day off, he says — landed the 45-year-old in the hospital for a spell on Thursday after suffering what turned out to be a wicked case of dehydration.


Floyd TrujilloFloyd TrujilloJune 27, 20175min225

I’m proud to have served my country — but my country, or more precisely its health care system, has been falling short in recent years. The VA facilities have had well-known problems and 1.75 million veterans who rely on Medicaid for their health care are facing an uncertain future. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) clearly needs to be repealed, but a simultaneous replacement guaranteeing fair coverage must be enacted as well.