Some Democrats who worked to get federal approval for a new reinsurance program to help lower health care costs in Colorado are a bit perturbed with some Republicans who are trying to take credit for it all.
They say those same Republicans have long worked to repeal the federal law — the Affordable Care Act — that reinsurance is based on. Doing so would negate the program, which is expected to reduce health care premiums by as much as 33% for those who purchase coverage on the state's health care exchange, Connect for Health Colorado.
The day Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, announced that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had approved a waiver last week to allow Colorado to implement the program, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., posted a video on Twitter taking partial credit for getting that done.
"Western Colorado has some of the highest health care costs in the country," Gardner said in the video. "This reinsurance policy, this waiver that I helped to secure, will help drive down the costs of health care in Colorado. It's important that we have this bipartisan accomplishment as we look forward to ways to alleviate the damage and the harm from high health care costs."
That post prompted an immediate riposte from state Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat who introduced the reinsurance measure with Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Reps. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, and Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat whose district includes part of Delta County.
"Zero calls from @SenCoryGardner's office and zero support from him over the years we've been working on this," Donovan wrote in a tweet of her own. "Instead, he's been in DC trying to repeal Obamacare — the very foundation of reinsurance to begin with. But sure, take credit."
Donovan later said in an interview that Gardner's tweet left her frustrated at best and angry at worst.
"I did not appreciate him taking credit for something while he's trying to destroy it when he's not on social media," she said. "A lawmaker to take credit for it who has not supported it, who has never reached out, and who has no problem being in front of leading the charge to repeal Obamacare, it particularly feels insincere. He can't be against Obamacare and celebrate reinsurance."
The bill that cleared the Colorado Legislature during this year's session had bipartisan sponsors and bipartisan support from other lawmakers in the Statehouse, including from several Republicans who have called for repealing the Affordable Care Act, such as Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction.
Donovan and other Democrats, with Rankin's help, tried to get that program through the Legislature last year with a bill that cleared the Democratic-controlled House with GOP support only to die in its first Senate committee at a time when Republicans held the majority.
Democrats were not stingy in giving those and other Republicans credit for helping get the law enacted and the federal waiver approved, but some said they, too, were offended by Gardner's comments.
"@SenCoryGardner, you had nothing to do with this policy proposal or its passage," tweeted state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood. "Way to be a mediocre white man taking credit for a woman's work. Let's give thanks to the real champion — @KerryDonovanSD5."
Gardner said he contacted Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services numerous times to get its approval for the waiver, all while working with Polis. Gardner, who's facing re-election, also was among the entire state's delegation to Congress — five Democrats and four Republicans — who jointly sent a letter to the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Health and Human Services in May asking that they approve the reinsurance waiver.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican, also applauded the reinsurance effort, but took no credit for its approval save acknowledging that he signed the letter. Like Gardner, Tipton also has voted many times in Congress to repeal Obamacare.
"Coloradans, especially those in rural and mountain communities, face some of the highest insurance costs, and this reinsurance program will provide much needed relief," said Matthew Atwood, his spokesman. "Congressman Tipton remains committed to fixing the broken health insurance system and reducing medical costs for Coloradans."
Polis said some political pandering may be going on, but it isn't as important as getting the reinsurance program approved, saying reducing those costs to Coloradans far outweighs any political gain, legitimate or not.
"There are people that are trying to eliminate and end the underlying law that even allows the exchange to exist at the same time that they nominally added their name to this request," Polis said. "It's true, but I'm just happy that we had the support of the delegation in getting this request. But yes, there will continue to be efforts to undermine the very foundation that this reinsurance was based on."