Health exchange repeal fails
DENVER — The GOP legislator who helped establish Colorado’s part of Obamacare defended the state’s health care exchange Tuesday.
Rep. Amy Stephens told fellow Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Janak Joshi that his bill to repeal the law that created the Connect for Health Colorado health care exchange is the wrong approach unless he can propose some workable alternative.
The exchange, the state’s response to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act, has been slow out of the gate in signing up enrollees.
Still, it’s the best thing the state has to offer, Stephens told Joshi.
“To come here and say repeal without any other kind of strategy for this state, any other health care ideas, just in my mind is indefensible,” she said. “I say that to you and I say it to the rest of my colleagues, you come to this committee, you want to repeal something, you better have an idea in place because the market demands it.”
Stephens was the lead House sponsor, and the only Republican, behind a 2011 law that created the exchange in Colorado.
As a result, some members of her own party dubbed the new law, “Amycare,” even though the concept was first raised by Republican Gov. Bill Owens long before she was elected to the Colorado Legislature.
It was no surprise then when the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee killed the bill on an 8-5 vote, with Stephens joining the seven Democrats on the 13-member panel opposing it.
In arguing for the bill, Joshi said the state should cut its losses on the exchange, saying not enough people have signed up for it, and that it’s been more expensive for enrollees than originally thought.
“These are the people who couldn’t afford it in the first place, so I wonder if they will be able to afford to see the doctors even though they have insurance,” he told the committee, referring to high deductibles and co-payments that are coming with the coverage. “It’s like you buy a car, but the gasoline is so expensive that you can’t even use the car.”
He said the Legislature may not have been told exactly what the exchange was or how it would operate, saying some of the testimony that helped get the law enacted was “not told truthfully.”
That raised the ire of Stephens, who said the state’s exchange has passed several audits about how it is operating.
“The public and our Legislature was told absolutely everything up front about this (exchange law),” she said. “We’ve had legislative oversight review of this going on steadily from the moment the bill was passed. If anyone wants to insinuate that anything less than honest, or anything less than transparent, has been going on here, I really take offense to it and the record won’t support that.”