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Tom RamstackTom RamstackSeptember 14, 20174min509

 

Republicans and Democrats in Congress proposed more revisions to the nation’s health insurance this week while Colorado politicians struggled with the same concerns over skyrocketing premiums that are fueling the national controversy.

Governor John Hickenlooper continued to argue for a bipartisan plan while a gubernatorial candidate who wants his job recommended a Medicare-for-everyone option.

Hickenlooper (D) spoke to a Fort Collins business group this week, where he described health insurance as a factor weighing on other economic priorities.

He developed an alternative to the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act that he says could provide health insurance to a large number of underserved persons but lower premiums.

He announced the plan last week with co-developer Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich as the Colorado Division of Insurance said it has approved an average health insurance premium for next year of nearly 27 percent.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate for governor Cary Kennedy unveiled a plan this week that would give all Coloradans an option to purchase insurance through the state’s Medicaid, Health First Colorado or state employee health plan.

The former state treasurer said the plan would encourage the kind of competition that would bring down insurance premiums.

“We can offer more choices, address the rural disparities in access and affordability and lower costs,” Kennedy said in a statement. “That’s why today I am proposing giving everyone in Colorado the ability to buy into our public health insurance plans.”

Kennedy’s plan is similar to a proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., to extend Medicare and Medicaid benefits to nearly the entire U.S. population.

Although Sanders first announced his plan during his failed run for president last year, he discussed a revised version this week that would make insurance premiums adjustable based on income. Low income persons would pay no premiums while the wealthiest people and corporations would be charged high rates.

The revamped Sanders plan drew criticism from Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner on Thursday.

“The Bernie Sanders socialized medicine plan is not the answer to fix our broken healthcare system,” Gardner said in a statement. “Year after year, Coloradans are forced to reckon with rising insurance premiums and fewer choices and anyone who thinks a government takeover of our healthcare system is the answer is not serious about finding real solutions for the American people.”

He said the current Obamacare system was “a failure in states across the country, including Colorado, and it is not reasonable to think more government is the solution.”

Extending Medicare beyond senior citizens it was designed to protect would leave the retirees with even fewer health insurance resources, Gardner said.

Meanwhile, Republicans continued to propose more health insurance solutions during hearings this week as time runs out in the current congressional session. Insurance companies predict premiums will take another leap upward nationwide next year.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 6, 20172min324

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is scheduled to testify Thursday before a U.S. Senate committee on his plan for stabilizing health insurance premiums, the same plan he presented at the Colorado Capitol last week.

“The governor will be sharing Colorado’s experience with the individual insurance marketplace,” Jacque Montgomery, the governor’s press secretary, told Colorado Politics.

About 18 million Americans purchase their own health insurance instead of relying upon employers.

Hickenlooper is one of five governors scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in Washington, which is 7 a.m. in Denver and will be carried online via streaming by clicking here.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Denver, serves on the committee.

Hickenlooper is expected to be joined Thursday by Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Steve Bullock of Montana, Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Gary Herbert of Utah.

His testimony is part of a series of hearings the Senate is holding after the recent failure of Republican efforts to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Under the plan Hickenlooper developed with Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich with support from six other governors, the Obamacare requirement for Americans to buy health insurance would remain.

However, Hickenlooper suggests that Congress develop tax exemptions for insurers that offer health plans in underserved counties.

He also wants Congress to set up a fund to help states create reinsurance programs that could reduce insurance premiums.



Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJune 29, 20176min399

A ceremony will take place Friday at an Eastern Plains hospital to celebrate funding for rural facilities after Gov. John Hickenlooper was criticized for not signing legislation there.

The Colorado Hospital Association organized an event at Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo to celebrate passage of Senate Bill 267, an omnibus that provided money for roads, schools and hospitals.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers who sponsored the bill are expected to attend the event, including Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who criticized Hickenlooper earlier this month for not signing the bill at the Hugo hospital.

The two Republicans said Hickenlooper was unwilling to work with them on a signing ceremony at Lincoln Community. They said his decision is going to make it difficult to work with the governor in the future.

“While we know the governor has the authority to sign bills wherever he wants, I am disappointed that it seems bill signings have become all about him. Legislators don’t have taxpayer funded airplanes and transportation to keep up with the governor’s whims,” Sonnenberg told Colorado Politics earlier this month.

“He had three weeks to work with us on this very important bill and he refused. If he considers that working together, I can’t wait to show him how that goes both ways next session,” Becker added.

Hickenlooper’s office said at the time that it was simply a matter of scheduling, and that the bill was still signed in a rural part of the state, east of Pueblo.

The governor is not on the list of expected attendees for Friday’s event, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. His office said it did not receive an official invite through its online system.

Also on the list of expected attendees is House Democratic Leader KC Becker of Boulder and Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver, who were also sponsors of Senate Bill 267.

The driving force behind the bill, which creates a 20-year funding program to direct $1.8 billion towards critical infrastructure, had to do with the potential for rural hospitals to close because of a lack of funding.

Senate Bill 267 reversed a proposed budget move that would have reduced the Hospital Provider Fee by $264 million in an effort to balance the budget. The fee is assessed on hospital bed stays to force a match of larger federal health care dollars. With the federal match, hospitals in Colorado would have lost about $528 million.

The Republican sponsors of the bill were particularly upset that the governor didn’t sign the measure at a rural hospital because it took a leap of faith for them to push the bill through the split legislature. The issue of restructuring the Hospital Provider Fee was a nonstarter for years for most Republicans.

But some GOP members found themselves evolving on the issue because of the rural component. It was still thorny, however, as several Republican lawmakers believe the move violates the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights by moving revenue out from under its constitutionally mandated spending cap.

Hickenlooper chose to sign Senate Bill 267 at Fowler High School. While it is in a rural area, in a town of about 1,200 people, and the legislation also benefits schools, the two Republican sponsors of the bill thought the governor should have signed the bill at a hospital in an area such as Hugo in Lincoln County, which was repeatedly highlighted during the Hospital Provider Fee debate.

When the governor signed the bill on May 30, several other lawmakers showed up to the event, including House Democratic Leader Becker, Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City, and Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican from Alamosa, who was one of the first Republicans to rally around the bill, stating his support in previous years.

When it comes to signing ceremonies, the governor’s office is often overwhelmed by requests from lawmakers who want legislation signed at specific locations. It can be difficult to accommodate schedules.

“I’m sorry they feel slighted on this one, but there was no slight intended from the governor’s office,” Kurt Morrison, Hickenlooper’s director of legislative affairs, responded to concerns earlier this month “It was scheduled around as many schedules as there could be and unfortunately with every bill signing ceremony, we’re hardly ever able to accommodate the wishes of all sponsors and the governor’s schedule.”

In addition to KC Becker, Crowder is also expected to attend the ceremony in Hugo on Friday. Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, a physician, and representatives of the hospital community are also expected to attend. Grantham was invited, though he is not confirmed to attend, as was Rep. Kimmi Lewis, R-Las Animas.

“This event… is an opportunity to highlight the incredible impact this bill will have on Colorado hospitals as well as a chance to thank the sponsors,” read an advisory from the Colorado Hospital Association.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJune 7, 20173min251
Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, honors Jerusalem as part of a live event that was streamed to Washington, D.C. and Israel. (Peter Marcus/Colorado Politics)

 

Gov. John Hickenlooper and state lawmakers on Wednesday afternoon participated in a celebration in honor of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Remarks from Colorado politicians were streamed to events in Washington, D.C. and in Israel, where celebrations were taking place to mark the occasion.

“Fifty years ago, facing threats few countries have known, Israel accomplished what many thought impossible – uniting the city of Jerusalem,” Hickenlooper said in a video address.

“Even in the face of continued threats, Israel reaffirms its commitment to democracy, equality, and a free and open society. Coloradans celebrate Jerusalem Day with Israel, and we reaffirm our support for a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors.”

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, also provided remarks:

“Today, we pay tribute to the lives lost, the families torn apart by needless bloodshed, and the centuries long pain endured by the resilient people of Israel. But we also join our friends in celebration.”

Grantham urged President Trump to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The U.S. Senate on Wednesday also unanimously backed a resolution supporting the move.

“While you are a relatively young state, you are an ancient nation whose resolve serves as a model of prosperity for all who seek freedom and a better, brighter vision for the future,” Grantham said. “It gives me great pride to address you today, on the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s liberation, and affirm that the city that is home to all faiths will remain forever united.”

A tribute from the Colorado legislature also was read as part of the live event.

Before Grantham and other lawmakers spoke in the Colorado Senate chamber, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered remarks, which were streamed to Colorado.

“Without Jerusalem, the Israel that we know today would simply not exist,” Ryan said.

Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, spoke of her personal experiences with Jerusalem, where several of her family members live. She encouraged people to travel to the city and “tell me you don’t feel the presence of God right there in Jerusalem.”

“It doesn’t matter what shape you wear on the necklace around your neck,” she said.