After Colorado received federal approval Wednesday for a program that will dramatically slash health insurance costs in the state, Colorado’s Republican Senator Cory Gardner was quick to tout the program as a personal accomplishment:
Gardner’s victory lap is, to put it bluntly, absolute nonsense given that the reinsurance program, which is expected to save Colorado families who purchase health care on the individual marketplace thousands of dollars a year, relies entirely on the Affordable Care Act. Gardner and his Republican colleagues have been actively attempting to sabotage the health care law ever since it became law.
Gardner also recently criticized Democratic lawmakers’ efforts at passing cost-saving health care legislation at Colorado’s capitol.
The reinsurance program, which was passed by state lawmakers and approved by Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis earlier this year, creates a fund to help insurance companies cover their sickest patients — those who end up being the most expensive and pulling up the price of premiums for everyone else. It is, in essence, an insurance program for insurance companies.
By preventing the most costly patients from raising insurance rates for everyone, the program helps stabilize the price-sensitive individual market, where those who don’t have coverage through their employers or qualify for Medicare or Medicaid buy their insurance plans.
Roughly 250,000 Coloradans buy their insurance on the individual market. The Division of Insurance expects premiums for those Coloradans to drop by an average of 18.2%. For Western Slope families, who pay the highest premiums in the state, yearly savings could total $9,000.
When the federal government signed off on Colorado’s reinsurance program this week, it approved the use of federal funding made available for such programs through the ACA’s state innovation waivers, which allow states to modify the law to best provide affordable health care to their residents. The ACA initially had a nationwide reinsurance program built-in, but that was temporary, and only lasted until 2016. Since then, it’s been up to states to create reinsurance programs of their own through the ACA.
That means that if Obamacare goes down, then Colorado’s reinsurance program will go down with it.
Given that Gardner has attempted to undermine Obamacare at every turn, it’s perplexing — and blatantly misleading — that he’d attempt to take credit for a program that relies on its survival.
Late last year, Gardner and Senate Republicans actively blocked an attempt to defend the ACA from a federal lawsuit backed by the Trump Administration. If the lawsuit succeeds, the landmark healthcare law would be thrown out. Gardner has also repeatedly voted to repeal Obamacare,even without a plan to replace it.
Not only has Gardner helped to endanger the ACA, but he also criticized Democratic state lawmakers’ attempts at passing legislation to save Coloradans money on health care at the capitol this year.
At a Colorado Republican communications and messaging training for activists on June 29, after being asked by an attendee how Republicans should talk about and address high health care costs, Gardner said, “the Dems have admitted that Obamacare has failed. Do you think if the Dems thought Obamacare was working they’d have done what they did down at the state legislature this year?”
Watch the exchange below:
And, at a June 14 event in Fort Morgan addressing the county Republican Party, when asked by an attendee about how he planned to get rid of Obamacare, Gardner misrepresented the reinsurance program as a fix for the ACA rather than a program made possible by it.
Q: “I know that you campaigned on repealing Obamacare, and that wasn’t able to happen. And Trump is having to put a lawsuit together to go after Obamacare and its waste. How are we going to get rid of Obamacare?”
SEN. GARDNER: “Yeah you notice one of best indications that Obamacare failed was the state legislature’s efforts this year to ask the federal government to give them permission to do something that Obamacare didn’t do, and that’s to actually reduce prices and actually create competition. And so I think just the fact that legislature had to act shows that Obamacare has failed. In rural Colorado, where you have fewer choices and insurers, where you have higher costs — Western Colorado has some of the highest insurance costs in the country because of the results and consequences of Obamacare.”
In a 9News segment last night, news anchor Kyle Clark said that a spokesperson for Gardner said he was approached by Polis to talk to the Trump Administration to help ensure the program’s approval. But, as Clark put it, “Senator Gardner wants to demolish the house, but today he’s claiming credit for helping the homeowners put on an addition.”
Colorado lawmakers, including those who worked on the legislation, were quick to call Gardner out on his hypocrisy as well.
Here’s what state Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Democrat from Vail and the lead bill sponsor, said on Twitter.
Here’s House Health and Insurance Committee Chair Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver):