Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 31, 20174min349

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.


Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 30, 20173min388

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has summoned the press to the state Capitol Thursday morning to lay out the bipartisan healthcare proposal he and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have been working on and talking about for weeks.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Kasich, a Republican, are being discussed nationally as an odd couple who might form an alternative ticket for the White House in 2020.

Republicans and Democrats in Washington haven’t been able to crack the partisan nutshell around affordable, quality healthcare for Americans. Republicans who have railed on Obamacare for years, haven’t been able to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act with their own plan.

The swing state governors hope to provide the plan to Congress when it returns from its August recess in a few days.

The problems with Obamacare have been a lack of competition among insurers because of lagging enrollment. Many insurers have fled the exchanges that were created under Obamacare to sell to people who don’t have insurance subsidized by their employers. Those who have policies have seen double-digit increases in their premiums with high deductibles.

“There will be things that we will address that will have specific solutions,” Kasich told the Washington Examiner last week, promising his proposal with Hickenlooper would not be “some pie in the sky, way up there kind of stuff.”

Kasich and Hickenlooper have been on Sunday morning TV and penning op-eds on the subject, saying it’s too important to squander with partisan brawls.

Hickenlooper said on “Face the Nation” on Aug. 6 that he thinks senators will listen.

“I think we’ll be surprised at the number of senators that are willing to kind of step back and say, ‘Alright, let’s roll up our sleeves and work on a bipartisan basis and see how far we can go,’” the Colorado governor said.

Hickenlooper’s announcement will be carried on a livestream on the governor’s Facebook page.

Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 15, 20175min3704

Trish Zornio’s resume says scientist, but it could soon say candidate. The 32-year-old biomedical scientist from Superior is putting noticeable research into her consideration of running against U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020.

A Democrat from a family of New Hampshire Republicans, she has a detailed website about her potential candidacy. Monday evening she held the latest in a series of town hall-style meetings at the Boulder Public Library, and she’s trying to figure out what it would take financially for a newcomer to run.

Zornio brings a resume proving authenticity to her issues. She is a millennial woman with a razor-keen background in science and the environment and an outsider to the political outcomes and baggage many voters are tired of. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump showed the latter.

“The health-care votes were a tragedy,” Zornio said of her reasons to oppose Gardner. “That in no way is what Colorado should have had in a representative, and it in no way is what should have happened on a national stage.”

Zornio has worked on medical research for the University of Colorado Boulder, Denver Health Medical Center and the Stanford University School of Medicine, and most recently on a National Institutes of Health-funded study on rare and undiagnosed diseases.

She said the Affordable Care Act is imperfect, but it improving it makes more sense than creating a vacuum for care. Zornio said she was concerned by Senate Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace it last month, but especially their failed “skinny repeal” without a replacement health-care system for tens of millions of people.

Zornio said the science around the environment is clear.

“We need senators who are in office who understand and appreciate the science, and not only that, but can advocate,” she said. “And when you have a party that’s rising, that’s pulling us from things like the Paris (climate) accord and such, this isn’t acceptable. This isn’t a partisan issue, protecting our environment and our public lands.”

Acknowledging the role energy development has in the state, Zornio supports the advancement of renewable sources, because “we have the opportunity here in Colorado to make headway and be on the forefront of the nation,” she said.

Zornio’s potential candidacy in Colorado was featured in Melissa Healy’s health and science blog in the Los Angeles Times in June. The post is titled, “What happens when scientists leave their labs to experiment with politics?”

Zornio is the lead coordinator for the Colorado chapter of 314 Action, a nonprofit that helps those who work in science, technology, energy and math get involved in policy-making.

But can she raise the kind of bucks it takes to compete? Gardner has collected and spent more than $13 million since he jumped in the Senate race against Democratic incumbent Mark Udall in 2013.

“I think that’s a really good question,” she said with a nervous laugh. “That’s part of the exploration process, but I think there’s a huge movement right now with a number of organizations trying to get women, scientist particularly in office, youth in office … We’ve seen that it’s possible to get candidates elected from the grassroots level. It’s possible to do.”

A Colorado resident since 2009, Zornio has done a lot of work in the community work, as well.

She is a board adviser for the 500 Women Scientists Youth Pod in Boulder County, as well the principal director of CoMusica, a community music program she founded in 2013 .


Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 30, 20178min356

The week in Colorado Politics included a lot of stories from Washington, D.C., and Denver that will impact across the state. The political jockeying for next year’s elections continue, while health care, military service and the Motor City Madman found their ways into the headlines.

Here are the stories from Colorado Politics that our staff thinks will continue to be important in the days, weeks and months ahead.


Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

5. Gardner sees a silver lining in GOP healthcare stagnation

For much of the debate over Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner was coy about how he might vote on the one-sided GOP proposal, even though he was one of the senators who helped draft it in private. He ultimately sided with his party as its proposals failed this week. Ever the optimist, Gardner also saw a victory in Democrats finally admitting their one-sided Affordable Care Act needs bipartisan TLC. “I’ve always urged Democrats to work with Republicans in a bipartisan manner,” Gardner said.

Read the full story here.


DaVita Inc. President and CEO Kent Thiry (Photo courtesy Thiry via Twitter)
DaVita Inc. President and CEO Kent Thiry (Photo courtesy Thiry via Twitter)

4. DaVita boss Kent Thiry won’t run for governor

DaVita CEO Kent Thiry flirted with a run for governor as a Republican, a party he joined just days before his people talked to Colorado Politics in April about the possibility he might jump in. But this week, Thiry announced he’s thought better of it and will stay on the sideline next year instead.

Read the full story here.


Ted Nugent. (AP file)

3. The Nug gives George Brauchler the nudge in governor’s race

The 1970s rocker who is the belligerent voice of heavy-metal hunting across America says George Brauchler is the man to lead Colorado. Motor City Madman Ted Nugent, with no obvious ties to Colorado, endorsed the Arapahoe County district attorney last week and called for “real American shitkicker BloodBrothers in Colorado” to support him, too. Is this good for Brauchler?

Read the full story here.


U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet delivers a speech about Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo via YouTube)
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet delivers a speech about Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo via YouTube)

2. Bennet calls Republicans scared and disgraceful

Colorado senior Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Denver, emerged as one of the most forceful and vocal opponents to Republicans’ (ultimately failed) efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare this past week. “In Colorado, people want politicians who don’t say one thing during the campaign and another thing when they govern,” Bennet said of President Trump’s promise for comprehensive and compassionate care.

Read the full story here.


Staff Sgt. Patricia King became the U.S. Army’s first transgender infantryman this year when she came out to her commanders. King, pictured outside Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, has been serving in the Army for 16 years. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

1. Coloradans outraged by Trump plan to ban transgender military service

While Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs and one of his Republican primary challengers, state Sen. Owen Hill, were good with President Trump’s tweeted proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the military, Colorado’s Democratic leaders were aghast by the notion.

Read the full story here.


Jimmy SengenbergerJimmy SengenbergerJuly 28, 20176min410
Jimmy Sengenberger
Jimmy Sengenberger

Fifty Senate Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday voted in favor of opening up 20 hours of debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Colorado’s own Sen. Cory Gardner, an advocate for healthcare reform, was among those who voted to move ahead.  He subsequently cast votes in favor of repeal and replace, “straight repeal” and “skinny repeal” of Obamacare.  With each of these votes, Senator Gardner unquestionably made the right decisions.

Coloradans on the individual market are bracing for premium increases of 27% next year, a staggering amount on top of already-staggering premiums.  Top that with outrageous deductibles, and Obamacare yet again has doomed many Coloradans to “health insurance” in name only – not access to the care they need.  That is, if they (unlike me) can even afford insurance.

Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that premiums have shot up $2,784, or 105%, on average nationally since 2013 – one year before the ACA regulations went into full implementation.  This is not only expensive – it is reprehensibly so.  Americans throughout the country are suffering under the ACA, and we deserve better.

Judging from past radio interviews I’ve conducted with Sen. Gardner, he seems to recognize that now is the opportunity for the Senate to take decisive action to resolve this crisis for his constituents in Colorado and Americans everywhere.

Coloradans like me who are hurt by or suffering under the boot of Obamacare deserve to have our voices heard in Congress.  We deserve a shot at meaningful reform.  Had Sen. Gardner not voted to simply take up debate, struggling Coloradans would have ultimately been denied the opportunity for real, vigorous debate on the Senate floor on conservative solutions to address premiums, deductibles and tightening access to care.

While the U.S. Senate has hit a serious roadblock on this issue, it is essential that Republicans continue to strive for solutions to the health care crisis. It will take a renewed and open process of debate and amendments on the Senate floor to get there, but it is crucial that Sen. Gardner and his colleagues in the majority work together to revive this pivotal effort and follow through on their promise to the American people.

Now, this does not mean that Republicans cannot, should not and must not take any steps to work with Democrats. Quite the contrary: there are initiatives that will require collaboration with Democrats for 60 votes, but only after the most foundational components of Obamacare are torn from the lawbooks.

Writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette back in April, Dr. Michael T. Parra, a Fellow at the Millennial Policy Center, and I proposed a piecemeal approach to repealing and replacing the ACA.  We suggested that Congress should repeal and replace a significant chunk of the law and then work alongside Democrats on necessary supplemental reforms.

More than four months later, with deep-seated divisions among Republicans remaining, I still see that something along the lines of the strategy we proposed in April is the right one.  The Senate should indeed pass one large-scale bill which accomplishes as many key reform objectives as possible within the constraints of reconciliation.  (Reconciliation is a procedure requiring only 51 votes for approval of legislation that meets certain budgetary standards.)

Such a bill should, among other steps, eliminate the Obamacare taxes and the employer and individual mandates; offer expansive relief from the essential health benefits that are jacking up costs so high; rein in Medicaid with block grants and work requirements, and unleash health savings accounts (HSAs) so that they can be applied toward premiums and all medications.

While the Congress works to pass this “large-scale bill” first, there are several other steps that it should take to chip away at other parts of Obamacare and implement reforms that should bring Democrats into the fold on individual legislation.

One piece of legislation would permit insurance sales across state lines while a second would support invisible high-risk pools for those individuals who have expensive, pre-existing conditions.  Another bill would permit Association Health Plans, which allow community organizations and small businesses to pool resources together to insure members and employees.

Senate Republicans like Senator Gardner would do well to make use of a strategic, piecemeal approach like this to accomplish the repeal and replacement of the ACA with serious, much-needed reforms that will bring down costs and boost access to healthcare.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 24, 20173min306

In politics as in life, there’s no pleasing some folks. Take, for example, an e-missive blasted out this afternoon by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (the campaign arm of U.S. House Democrats), denouncing Colorado’s 6th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman over his vote on the latest pending GOP health-care plan.

The group’s email — no doubt one of many sent to the districts of House Republicans nationwide who voted for the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — points to a new Congressional Budget Office analysis that finds among other things the GOP proposal would threaten the health coverage of some 23 million Americans. The email asserts, “Bad news for Coffman: CBO analysis confirms disastrous impact of House Republican repeal & ripoff bill.”

Except that Coffman was one of 20 Republicans in the House to vote against the measure. You’d think the DCCC would have sent him a thank-you card or at least blown him a Twitter kiss. Instead, they dis the guy — for voting their way.

It was Denver Fox 31-TV’s political ace Joe St. George who first brought it to our attention:

OK, so was it an innocent oversight by the DCCC in the rush to beam out a bevy of e-blasts to the districts of assorted Republican congressmen? Or, given the loose wording of the barb at Coffman, was it intended to hang the GOP health-care plan around his neck by vaguely implying his involvement — even though he had come out against it?

Dirty pool, you say? Well, it is politics, after all. And Coffman’s seat is coveted — and deemed winnable by either party. Yet, he has cheated the odds and bested the Democrats in election after election.

The stakes are high, and in the era of the perpetual campaign, it’s never too early to launch the first attack of the next election cycle.

Gun Panel at Cell_3.jpg

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 16, 20174min255

A new report from an Obamacare-friendly think tank in the nation’s capital concludes that a pending congressional replacement for the nation’s endlessly debated health-care law could leave many Coloradans — especially in rural communities — without health coverage.

A press release today touting the findings by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., pointedly notes, “Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet can prevent the bill’s harmful cuts and other changes from ultimately becoming law.”

It’s a reference to the Republican-run U.S. House’s proposed repeal and replacement of the Obama administration’s health care policy. The House GOP adopted the proposal earlier this month, handing the legislation to the U.S. Senate, which though also in Republican hands is expected to reshape the House version considerably.

The think tank’s study breaks down, state by state, the projected impact of the House plan’s rollback of Medicaid coverage for low-income households. Obamacare had dramatically expanded Medicaid — including in economically hard-pressed small towns and agricultural communities — and the study says the repeal of that expansion “…would devastate health care in rural America.”

The Colorado-sized news release zero’s in on the toll in the Centennial State:

The House bill would effectively end the Affordable Care Act’s … Medicaid expansion, under which 87,000 rural Coloradans have gained coverage. Roughly 21 percent of Coloradans who have gained coverage under the expansion live in rural communities. The Medicaid expansion has also expanded access to substance use disorder treatment at a time when many Colorado rural communities have been ravaged by the opioid crisis.

The news release quotes the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative‘s Adam Fox:

“Colorado’s rural communities already face a lot of challenges, and policymakers in Washington shouldn’t make life harder for the people who live there … That means our senators should reject any bill that takes coverage away from people, ends the Medicaid expansion, caps or cuts the program, makes insurance coverage unaffordable, or takes away protections from people with health conditions.”

Ongoing attempts by the congressional GOP and Trump administration to rewrite the nation’s health-care policy have been the focus of a partisan tug-of-war ever since Donald Trump’s upset victory last November. Democrats have been warning of the ill-effects of ending Obamacare, which Republicans have been itching to do now that a Republican is in the White House. Obamacare defenders have been dogging Republican members of Congress on the issue, including in Colorado, and have thronged the officeholders’ meetings with constituents in their home districts.

Joey BunchJoey BunchMarch 8, 20173min203
The conservative Millennial Policy Center in Denver is planning a forum next week to discuss how Obamacare might best be repealed and replaced from the view of conservative healthcare reform fellows. “Our initiative will tackle the barriers to affordable, consumer-driven healthcare. We will develop and share practical, comprehensive solutions to revitalize healthcare for all Americans — […]

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