Hundreds showed up to a rally Tuesday at Colorado’s Capitol to protect health care amid GOP efforts to change state and federal policies.
As the future of the Affordable Care Act is coming into question in Washington, state legislators are considering the fate of Colorado’s health insurance marketplace, which was set up to implement the ACA.
A bill introduced by Republicans would scrap the state’s online health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, which was created in 2010 to cater to Coloradans who don’t receive coverage from their employers.
The exchange was used by over 200,000 Coloradans to find health insurance plans in 2016, and is seeing record numbers of users so far in 2017.
If Senate Bill 3 passes into law, Coloradans would have to shop for health insurance on the federal marketplace, the future of which is uncertain as Republicans in Congress move to repeal the ACA without a replacement plan.
At today’s rally, concerned citizens, joined by Democratic state legislators, shared stories about how the Affordable Care Act and Connect for Health Colorado have positively impacted their lives. The energy was palpable as the crowd chanted “no repeal” and reassured one admittedly overwhelmed citizen-speaker with cheers and a shout of “we’re here!”
Amanda Miller told the crowd that she and her husband bought health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado prior to a harrowing highway accident involving a semi-truck. She said she started crying when their hospital bills were fully covered by their recently-bought insurance plan, which they wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.
“No one should ever be kneeling on the side of the road, watching someone they love bleeding out and have to wonder, how am I going to pay for this?” said Miller.
She added that if the repeal bill passes, people like her would be at the mercy of a Congress that wanted to take their health care away.
Caleb Jackson, who battled a rare neurological disorder, admitted to the crowd that he voted against Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but added that he wouldn’t be standing there if not for Obamacare’s ban on lifetime limits for health benefits. He also noted that Connect for Health Colorado made it easy to shop for an insurance plan while he was busy pursuing his degree.
Rally-goer Pixie Glore said in an interview with the Colorado Times Recorder that she couldn’t afford health insurance without the ACA, and thinks consistent protest is the only way to get lawmakers to pay attention.
“I think were going to have to keep coming and we’re going to have to have bodies show up to get those people to listen to us,” said Glore.
Glore added that she hadn’t shown up to political rallies since the Vietnam War, but decided it was time to be active again.
“I thought I was done, and here I am back again,” Glore said. “I just can’t let this slide now.”
State Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) criticized the health exchange in his opening speech for the legislative session, calling the repeal “overdue,” and said “it is time for us to shed some of the dead weight of failed government policy.”
Critics of Connect for Health Colorado frequently point to a recent audit that found it misspent $9.7 million in grant money.
Many Coloradans have been vocal in their opposition to GOP plans to repeal the ACA in recent weeks, including at a protest in front of the office of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) in Denver and at a constituent meeting with U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO). Coffman has been criticized for exiting the meeting early.
The hearing for the bill was originally slated for 2 p.m. the same afternoon as today’s rally, but was then moved to Tues., Feb. 7. Organizers called the change in scheduling an effort to undermine the rally and stifle the voices of concerned Coloradans.