Tom RamstackTom RamstackSeptember 25, 20176min210

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet harshly criticized a Republican proposal for revamping the nation’s health insurance during an emotional congressional hearing Monday in Washington, D.C.

He said the plan would leave millions of Americans without health insurance.

“What they’re doing is stripping hard-earned protections from the American people,” Bennet (D) said during a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee.

The committee was reviewing the Graham-Cassidy bill, a conservative proposal supported by President Donald Trump that would repeal the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

It would return control of Medicaid to states through block grants and cap funding for the program that helps pay health care costs for low-income persons.

Federal health care subsidies to states would be redistributed. States that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare would lose federal funding compared with predominantly Republican states that did not expand it.

In addition, persons with pre-existing conditions would not automatically be eligible for the same health insurance rates as everyone else, which is different from Obamacare’s nearly universal coverage.

The bill would get rid of federal subsidies for buying insurance on the individual market, as well as the requirement to purchase it.

Bennet described the Graham-Cassidy bill as a political maneuver by its supporters rather than a serious effort to amend problems with the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010.

“The only thing I can come to is a conclusion that this is a campaign promise to repeal Obamacare,” Bennet said.

He called the disruptions to individuals’ health insurance that would result from the Graham-Cassidy bill “a disgrace.”

Bennet’s opposition to the bill was joined almost unanimously by other Democrats in the Senate. Even some Republican leaders, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have said they would vote against it.

Surveys of senators show the bill would not win the minimum 51 votes needed to approve it. A vote is expected as soon as this week.

The hearing was delayed when protesters — some of them in wheelchairs — shouted repeatedly, “No cuts to Medicaid. Save our liberty.”

It reconvened about 15 minutes later after police cleared the room of protesters.

Critics of the bill in Colorado include Gov. John Hickenlooper. He supports giving states greater discretion over their own health insurance but he does not believe the Graham-Cassidy bill is the appropriate method.

“Only open, bipartisan approaches can achieve true, lasting reforms,” Hickenlooper and nine other governors wrote in a letter last week to Senate leaders.

A spokesman for Hickenlooper said the Graham-Cassidy bill would cost Colorado at least $1 billion a year in 2025 and 2026. By 2027, the costs would increase to $3 billion a year.

The Colorado Hospital Association submitted written testimony to the Senate hearing that opposed the bill.

“One in five Coloradans is covered by Medicaid, which means that cuts of this magnitude will likely impact hospitals’ ability to provide care for Colorado’s most vulnerable patients,” Steven J. Summer, Colorado Hospital Association president, said in a statement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., defended his bill during the hearing by saying, “My goal is to get the money and power out of Washington, closer to where people live, so they’ll have a voice about the most important thing in their life.”

At the current rate of insurance premium rate increases under Obamacare, the entire U.S. government budget would be consumed by health care payments by 2042, Graham said.

“What you have created is not working,” Graham said. “It’s time to try something new.”

An economic assessment from the financial services company Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings cast doubt on whether the bill represented an improvement. The bill would make the U.S. economy lose 580,000 jobs and $240 billion in economic activity by 2027, depressing the nation’s gross domestic product, the assessment said.


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Kevin LundbergKevin LundbergSeptember 22, 20176min1470

In his Aug. 31 news conference at the State Capitol, and again the following week in testimony before a committee of the U.S. Senate, Gov. Hickenlooper unveiled a “bipartisan plan” for improving the disastrous health care reform system dumped on the nation by very partisan Democrats in 2010. Yet, the “pragmatic proposals” put forward by Hickenlooper and his six partnering governors do not address many of the most serious problems created by the Affordable Care Act, known to its millions of victims as Obamacare.


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Tom RamstackTom RamstackSeptember 14, 20174min1482

 

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 7, 20177min540

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper advocated a bipartisan revision to the nation’s health care insurance program during a U.S. Senate hearing Thursday.

“Many people are angry and they have a right to be,” Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said during the hearing.

Hickenlooper discussed the plan he developed with six other Democratic and Republican governors while the time for revising the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act is running out for this year.

A Senate budget resolution Republicans have been using to authorize repeal of Obamacare expires at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, insurance companies hit with huge claims are either dramatically increasing premiums or closing down their business in some states.

Virginia and Tennessee could lose all their health insurers in little more than a year unless Congress intervenes to change the Affordable Care Act, according to statements from senators at the hearing.

Fourteen Colorado counties are served by only one health insurer after the other insurance companies dropped out, Hickenlooper said. Some families are paying as much as a quarter of their income to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement of buying insurance, known as the individual mandate.

“Our division of insurance is projecting premiums will increase by as much as 27 percent in 2018,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s a big problem.”

So far, all efforts by Republicans working alone to change the Affordable Care Act have failed, leaving a bipartisan plan like the one proposed by Hickenlooper as one of the few alternatives.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee scheduled four hearings in a week as it tries to salvage a new health insurance program.

Hickenlooper and his co-author of the governors’ plan, Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, will talk more about healthcare on Friday when they address a conference put on my the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal Center for American Progress.

Hickenlooper suggested Thursday that keeping the unpopular requirement that individuals must buy health insurance if employers don’t offer it, at least until Congress develops a better replacement.

Another provision of the plan calls on the Trump administration to fund cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers.

The plan also says Congress should fund a reinsurance program to pay for the care of the sickest patients, thereby eliminating their heavy costs from everyone else’s premiums.

“So many of these [insurance] pools tend to be dominated by the least healthy people,” Hickenlooper said.

He said he knew of a few patients whose health care costs exceeded $5 million a year.

“That raises premiums for everyone,” Hickenlooper said.

He wants Congress to give states more flexibility to craft their own solutions to health care costs, rather than forcing them to comply with a single federal standard.

“Existing regulations limit our ability to come up with creative solutions,” Hickenlooper said.

One of the most successful state programs mentioned during a Senate hearing a day earlier was Alaska’s reinsurance program.

The state invoked Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize shifting federal funding to state programs that bring down insurance premium prices. Alaska shifted insurance coverage for patients whose cases are the costliest to a separate pool the state funds separately through a reinsurance program.

Premiums for all other insured persons fell 7 percent afterward.

The bipartisan plan Hickenlooper proposes draws from the Alaska example.

Colorado’s primary innovation is its Accountable Care Cooperative, Hickenlooper said.

The cooperative gives residents an option of joining a system that emphasizes preventive health care, such as immunizations, health screenings and weight management.

“In Colorado, we’re trying to stretch federal dollars and pinch pennies,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s time for the federal government to work with us, not against us.”

Colorado Sen.Michael Bennet, a Democrat, said other industrialized countries pay half as much as the United States on health insurance but still provide their people with good care.

“We’re getting worse results,” Bennet said.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, issued a statement before the hearing Thursday night urging cooperation in Congress to resolve skyrocketing health care costs.

“Our current healthcare system will continue to fail Coloradans if we don’t do something to address the rising costs created by the Affordable Care Act,” Gardner said. “This should not be okay.”

Hickenlooper was joined at the speakers table Thursday by Republican Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Gary Herbert of Utah, along with Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana.

A group of Colorado Senate Republicans “mailed in” questions to Hickenlooper about his “nominally bipartisan” proposal.

The governor “didn’t bother to discuss his supposedly-bipartisan plan with Colorado Republicans,” Senate President Kevin Grantham said in a statement, “so we thought we’d give this a shot.”

The questions addressed the growth of Medicaid, rising premiums and a lack of details in Hickenlooper’s proposal.

“The governors’ plan offers no specific recommendation for modifying the onerous burdens in current law placed on small employer plans,” the Colorado Republicans wrote. “Does Governor Hickenlooper, as a former small business employer, have any personal thoughts or recommendations on that important issue?”

Grantham questioned labeling Hickenlooper’s plan bipartisan when only two of the nation’s 34 Republican governors signed on.

“If we’re going to come up with a Colorado solution to these issues, in a truly bipartisan way, Colorado Republicans should have a place at the table that they haven’t had so far,” Grantham wrote.


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Jimmy SengenbergerJimmy SengenbergerSeptember 5, 20177min420
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.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 31, 201715min470

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday established himself as a national policymaker by unveiling a bipartisan healthcare plan he co-authored with Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The seven-page plan included:

  • Immediate federal action to stabilize markets.
  • An active federal/state partnership.
  • Responsible reforms that preserve coverage gains and control costs.
  • Leave in place the individual mandate to buy insurance or pay a fine until Congress can devise a “credible replacement.”
  • Continue to fund cost-sharing reduction subsidies to insurers, which were created by the Affordable Care Act to help lower-income workers afford insurance.
  • Implement a $15 billion state stability fund modeled off a program in Alaska that helped ease the price of monthly premiums. But the plan does not mention funding for such a program.
  • Help for counties underserved by insurers.

The full blueprint is available here.

“We want to look at every option for cost control,” Hickenlooper said in the West Foyer of the state Capitol Thursday morning during a well-attended news conference to unveil the proposal.

The plan presented by Hickenlooper Thursday is in reaction to Republicans’ failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare last month. Leaders, including Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, have called for a bipartisan effort in the wake.

Hickenlooper said he and Kasich had to set aside personal preferences for a common solution.

“Is this going to fix all that’s wrong in our healthcare system?” Hickenlooper said. “No. Clearly that’s not going to happen, but this is a taking a big bite out of a very large problem.”

The plan focuses solely on the individual market, and makes no mention of the controversial subject of Medicaid. Even with avoiding the thorny issue of Medicaid, the letter received the support of just six other governors beyond Kasich and Hickenlooper.

“We as governors have pledged to work with our congressional leaders to ensure that the cost is not shifted to states, and that resources and care for our most vulnerable are protected,” Alaska Gov Bill Walker, a Republican who became an independent in 2014, said in a statement.

The other governors were Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards, a Democrat; Montana’s Steve Bullock, a Democrat; Nevada’s Brian Sandoval, a Republican; Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, a Democrat; and Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Hickenlooper said there wasn’t time to include every state leader’s ideas.

“I think time is of the essence,” Hickenlooper said. “We need to move forward on this and have concrete proposals. We talked to a number of other Republican governors and staffs, and many of the principles they’re supportive of.”

State Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, who has a background in insurance brokerage, said one reason other governors may not have signed the letter is because it ignores meatier subjects.

“I’m a little disappointed we didn’t start the conversation with Medicaid in a state where it’s roughly a third of our budget, with roughly a quarter of Coloradans on what was designed as a medical welfare program,” Smallwood said.

Smallwood said the plan does not tackle the employer mandate, which requires that employers with more than 50 workers provide health insurance or face penalties.

He said the governor should have consulted state Republicans on the plan. Smallwood serves as chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“It would have been great to have us in the room for at least a discussion,” Smallwood said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, was holding a separate news conference Thursday in the Colorado Capitol unrelated to health reform. He said the Hickenlooper-Kasich proposal resembles principles set forth by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress called the Problem Solvers Caucus. He’s a member.

Hickenlooper will testify next week before Congress on health reform and said he also hopes to meet with the Problem Solvers.

Coffman rejected the U.S. House health reform effort to undo major portions of the Affordable Care Act.

“It seems consistent with the principles that we agreed to that I signed onto in Problem Solvers,” Coffman said of the Hickenlooper-Kasich proposal. “Part of the problem is too much of it is in Washington right now and not enough of it is in the state. I want to see more control shifted to the states.”

But Coffman also said the Medicaid issue needs to be addressed for meaningful reform to move forward. He has proposed a 50/50 split of Medicaid expansion costs between the federal government and the state.

Coffman also supports Medicaid block grants, in which states would receive a lump sum from the federal government and then manage programs themselves. The congressman also would like to see a work requirement, where people on Medicaid would be required to hold a job, or seek one.

Jesse Mallory, the state director for Americans for Prosperity and the former chief of staff for the state legislature’s Senate Republicans, said the two governors’ plan stumbled out of the gate because it called for the continuation of the individual mandate.

“Rather than exploring ways to allow the market to be more competitive, his plan calls for more government intervention which we already know drives up costs,” Mallory said. “This is the wrong solution.”

But Ian Silverii, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, said the problem with focusing on the state level is state Republicans need to be willing to compromise. Silverii said that is not possible while the conservative Koch brothers influence the state legislature through groups such as Americans for Prosperity.

“It’s great when guys like John Kasich, who don’t owe the Koch brothers anything, decide to stand up and do the right thing for the people of this state,” Silverii said. “The problem is we have a state Senate that is wholly bought and paid for by the Koch brothers and have no interest in doing anything that they don’t direct them to do, and they are in the repeal Obamacare, don’t fix Obamacare camp.”

Hickenlooper said he hopes partisans in Washington are watching.

“I’m not in Congress and I understand that this is their job,” Hickenlooper told reporters at the Capitol. “But I think they’re going to hear from their voters, Republicans and Democrats saying, ‘Hey, it is about time, at least on this issue, we lay down our weapons as Republicans and Democrats and sit down at a table and try to come up with conclusions and solutions.”

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a former Kaiser Permanente executive, watched a few feet to Hickenlooper’s left. She is considering a run for governor to succeed Hickenlooper, who will leave office because of term limits after next year.

Hickenlooper and Kasich noted the “United States Chamber of Commerce have identified this as an urgent necessity,” and that the Congressional Budget Office says defunding the payments could drive up premiums by up to 25 percent and actually increase the federal deficit by as much as $194 million over the next decade.

“Also, Congress should put to rest any uncertainty about the future of CSR payments by explicitly appropriating federal funding for these payments at least through 2019,” the Hickenlooper-Kasich plan states. “This guarantee would protect the assistance working Americans need to afford their insurance, give carriers the confidence they need to stay in the market, increase competition, and create more options for consumers. Because the cost of this initiative is already included in the budget baseline, the appropriation would not have budget consequences.”

Hickenlooper on Thursday acknowledged one of the major problems with the Affordable Care Act: younger people are buying in, leaving older, sicker more costly customers for insurers to cover.

“The calculus for many young people is they say, ‘We’re not going to do it, we’re not going to get in this,” Hickenlooper said. “We’re trying to place an emphasis on driving down the premium cost for them and making sure there are some other consequences should they get sick and make sure they’re aware of those. They say you can take a horse to water but you can’t make them drink, right? Well, we can take young people and show them how important it is to get health insurance, but it’s difficult, it’s absolutely difficult.”

Unlike Congressional Republicans’ attempts at health care reform earlier this year, the bipartisan plan released Thursday largely worked within the framework of the nation’s existing health law, the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

“This was all about tinkering with soft spots in the ACA, not replacing it with something from the left or the right,” said Joe Hanel, a spokesman for the Colorado Health Institute, which analyzes legislative proposals, but does not take positions on them. “This is working within in current law, and making those mechanisms work.”

The plan affects only a fraction of Americans, because it only targets the individual market. That includes people without employer or government-based health insurance.

Left ignored were concerns that the health law’s subsidies do not help enough in the middle class – creating a key barrier to affordability for many purchasing their own insurance on state and national exchanges. The tax credits, which offset the cost of monthly premiums, are available to people earning up to four times the federal poverty limit. Some experts, however, say that bar is too low.

The plan also made no mention of recommendations for tamping down the rising costs of medical services and prescription drugs, which continue to outpace inflation. And it included only vague aspirations for moving the nation’s health system away from a fee-for-service model, to one that bases prices on the quality and value of a patients’ care.

“It’s a Band-Aid on part of the Affordable Care Act – a good Band-Aid, but it’s still just fairly small in scope,” Hanel said.

The proposal calls for fixing the “family glitch,” which made it more difficult for some families who can’t afford their employers’ insurance to get federal subsidies on an exchange. And it called for streamlining the wavier process for states seeking more flexibility in how they oversee their insurance markets.

Several of the governors’ ideas are untested, Hanel said, including allowing people in counties with only exchange-based insurer to buy into the Federal Employee Benefit Program.

“It’s probably the best first step that the country could make, but even the governors will admit that this is not a long term solution for what’s ailing the health care system,” Hanel said.

Adam Fox, of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, was “very encouraged” by the proposals, but said some areas still needed work.

He hailed the governors’ insistence on funding certain subsidies that tamp down out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans, such as co-pays and deductibles. But he said the governors should have pushed for them to become permanent, rather than merely be funded through 2019.

“Two years is bare minimum to really help insurers feel like that funding is going to be there,” Fox said.

The payments have become a political bargaining chip, with Trump repeatedly threatening to end them, despite warnings from insurers that doing so would destabilize the individual market.

Still, Fox urged lawmakers in Washington D.C. to take the governors’ proposals seriously.

“It is a little bit of perhaps an uphill battle,” Fox said. “But I think realistically, this is what kind of policies our Congress should be looking at if they want to ensure coverage and affordability right now.”

(Editor’s note: This story was updated several times during the governor’s speech and after.)


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 31, 20174min430

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office released a copy of the bipartisan healthcare plan he and Ohio Gov. John Kasich will send to Congress to consider when it returns from its August recess in a few days.

Hickenlooper has called an 11 a.m. press conference at the Capitol to talk about the proposal. The chat will be carried on a livestream on the governor’s Facebook page. Colorado Politics told readers about the release of the plan Wednesday.

Here is the proposal.

The seven-page letter to top congressional leaders said federal efforts to address insurance have been more of the problem than part of the solution.

“Continuing uncertainty about the direction of federal policy is driving up premiums, eliminating competition, and leaving consumers with fewer choices,” writes Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Kasich, a Republican. “Proposed premiums for the most popular exchange plans are expected to increase 18 percent in 2018 and 2.5 million residents in 1,400 counties will have only one carrier available to them on the exchange. Despite these headwinds, states continue to try to stabilize the individual market and have developed innovative solutions to preserve coverage while making insurance more affordable.

“Previously, we have written that changes to our health insurance system should be based on a set of guiding principles that include improving affordability and restoring stability to insurance markets. Reforms should not shift costs to states or fail to provide the necessary resources to ensure that the working poor or those suffering from mental illness, chronic illness or addiction can get the care they need.

In a Thursday morning tweet Hickenlooper said six more governors, Republicans and Democrats, have signed on.

The plan calls for three steps:

  • Immediate federal action to stabilize markets.
  • An active federal/state partnership.
  • Responsible reforms that preserve coverage gains and control costs.

“Lasting solutions will need support from both sides of the aisle, and we applaud the
bipartisan efforts that have now commenced in both the House and Senate,” Hickenlooper and Kasich wrote. “We ask that you support these efforts to return to regular order, allowing committees to work in an open,
transparent and bipartisan manner. Governors have extensive expertise implementing changes to our health insurance system, and we stand ready to work with you and your colleagues to develop solutions that are fiscally sound and provide quality, affordable coverage for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Colorado Politics will cover the 11 a.m. press conference and provide analysis from other Colorado leaders and experts today.