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Secretive Health Bill Promises High Costs for Colorado

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is one of 13 senators crafting a bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act. (Getty Images)
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is one of 13 senators crafting a bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act. (Getty Images)
June 22, 2017

DENVER -- A group of 13 U.S. senators, including Colorado's Cory Gardner, have still not made public their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement at the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, warned that if the Senate's version is anything like the American Health Care Act passed by the House, more than 600,00 Coloradans would lose coverage.

He added that if plans to cut Medicaid by more than $800 billion go forward, seniors, children and people with disabilities would be the hardest hit.

"Those cuts will also leave Colorado with a $14 billion hole in our budget,” Fox said. “And what that means is that Colorado will have to cut coverage or services."

Republicans argue that the Affordable Care Act isn't working, and their replacement plan is headed on a fast track for a vote next week.

Unlike the ACA, which included 160 hours of hearings and required 60 votes to pass, the GOP's plan will get no more than 20 hours of debate on the Senate floor - allowing for no expert testimony - and will be subject to a simple majority vote through a procedure known as "reconciliation."

Gardner has said he wants a longer "glide path” for the more than 400,000 Coloradans who stand to lose coverage provided under Medicaid expansion, to transition to private insurance. Fox said that may not be possible since premiums are expected to rise under the new law.

“There's really not another coverage option for those folks,” he said. "They won't be able to afford private insurance, so that's really more of a 'crash path' for those individuals that will lose coverage."

Fox and others - including a bipartisan group of governors such as Colorado's John Hickenlooper - are urging senators to release the details of their bill so that experts and constituents can look it over and give input.

"It's important for Coloradans to speak up and contact their senators right now - Sens. Bennet and Gardner - and make sure that they understand that the American Health Care Act will harm Coloradans' access to health care, and our economy,” Fox said.

Coloradans earning more than $1 million per year could get a tax cut of nearly $40,000 a year under the AHCA, paid for in part by removing more than 270,000 Coloradans from health insurance rolls.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO