Opinion

Unanswered questions about Hickenlooper’s ‘bipartisan’ Obamacare ‘fix’

Authors: Kevin Lundberg, Jim Smallwood - September 22, 2017 - Updated: September 22, 2017

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State Sen. Kevin Lundberg
Kevin Lundberg

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.

As for the “bipartisan” label affixed to the governors’ much-publicized plan, we leave it to others to judge whether a plan endorsed by only two of 34 Republican governors — Nevada’s Sandoval and Ohio’s Kasich — passes the smell test as truly bipartisan. Here in Colorado, unlike Washington, D.C., we think genuine bipartisanship requires more than tokenism.

When asked by a reporter if he had consulted any Republicans in Colorado while preparing his plan, Hickenlooper replied that he would be speaking with Republicans in Washington, D.C., by testifying before a Senate committee. Presumably, Colorado Republicans could listen to that testimony and ask questions afterwards.

Jim Smallwood

Well, we Colorado Republicans do have a few questions not yet answered by Hickenlooper — questions about the real-world problems created by Obamacare in Colorado.

  • Why do the proposals not offer any solutions for reining in the rapid growth of Medicaid as the default option for millions of people seeking insurance coverage, when 82 percent of new coverage purchased through the Colorado health benefits exchange since ACA was implemented in 2013 — and 89 percent nationally — has been in Medicaid enrollment, not private insurance plans?
  • Why is your plan silent on how to attack the cost drivers for rapidly increasing health care costs, the major underlying problem facing all health care consumers?
  • Why is there nothing in your plan on how to rein in the escalating premiums and cost of deductibles in plans offered on the state exchange, with a 2017-2018 increase in premiums for individual plans expected to average 27 percent statewide?
  • Your “bipartisan” plan offers no specific recommendations for modifying the onerous burdens in current law placed on small-employer plans. Do you, as a former small business employer, have any recommendations on that important issue?
  • Nor does your plan offer any concrete proposals for modifying the current ACA definition of “essential benefits,” a one-size-fits-all mandate imposed on 50 diverse states. What real-world changes to benefits plans would you make, to meet the needs of Coloradans?
  • What new incentives can be devised for persuading younger and healthier people to purchase insurance without the onerous, punitive and largely unsuccessful “individual mandate” in current law?
  • The plan makes vague references to allowing more state-level flexibility through federal waivers, but it is woefully short on concrete proposals. The plan appears fixated on holding states harmless against potential federal funding reductions, but where are your specific recommendations for how Colorado can control escalating health care expenditures?

In his Aug. 31 news conference, the governor called his plan a pragmatic “Band-Aid.” He used the term “stabilize” eight separate times, saying the primary goal of his plan is “to stabilize insurance markets.”  But we think most Coloradans want more from their elected officials than the “stabilization” of a program that has been responsible for reducing choice, raising rates to unprecedented heights and increasing taxpayer subsidies by hundreds of millions of dollars while failing to address the underlying cost drivers in our health care system.

If the many questions being asked by ordinary Coloradans remain unanswered when the Second Regular Session of the Colorado 71st General Assembly convenes in January, the people’s representatives would be justified in asking the people’s chief executive to appear before them and answer questions on these matters — with or without his teammates from Ohio and Nevada.

Kevin Lundberg

Kevin Lundberg

Kevin Lundberg, a Berthoud Republican, represents District 15 in the Colorado Senate and serves on the Joint Budget Committee.


Jim Smallwood

Jim Smallwood

Smallwood, a Parker Republican, represents District 4 in the Colorado Senate.