Colorado State Sen. Larry Crowder, an Alamosa Republican, took to Facebook this week to defend Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner after he controversially took credit for a new health care program that’s expected to save some Coloradans thousands per year on insurance.
The new law, which was passed by Colorado legislators earlier this year, creates what’s called a reinsurance program to help lower health insurance premiums on the individual market by creating a fund to help insurance companies cover high-cost claims. 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.
The program is made possible by “innovation waivers” through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which allows individual states to tweak the law to better provide affordable health care to their residents. Several other states have used these waivers to create reinsurance programs and have seen lower premiums for their residents as a result.
For the roughly 250,00 Coloradans who buy insurance on the individual market, savings are expected to be hugely significant. The Colorado Division of Insurance expects premiums 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.
That all depends, however, on the survival of the Affordable Care Act. But despite his history of opposition to the landmark health care law, Gardner took to Twitter after the reinsurance program received federal approval last week to trumpet it as a personal achievement, saying he worked to make the program a reality. According to a press release, Gardner wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Treasury Secretary Alex Mnuchin advocating for the program in May.
Gardner was immediately called out by Colorado lawmakers who were the driving force behind the bill’s passage, and by 9News’ Kyle Clark, for taking partial credit for a program that will become obsolete if Gardner and his Republican colleagues’ efforts to undermine the ACA are successful.
In fact, Gardner this week called the ACA unconstitutional when asked by The Hill whether he supports the federal lawsuit, backed by the Trump Administration, that would throw the ACA out entirely if it succeeds.
“If the Democrats want to stand for an unconstitutional law, I guess that’s their choice,” Gardner said.
Crowder, however, disagrees with the characterization that Gardner took credit for the reinsurance program.
“I don’t believe that he took credit for it rather than he was saying thanks for getting this done,” Crowder told the Colorado Times Recorder.
On Facebook, Crowder also said the “uproar” around Gardner’s statement is “not accurate.”
When asked whether he thought it was disingenuous that Gardner would claim to be a proponent of reinsurance while simultaneously putting it in jeopardy as a result of his opposition to the ACA, Crowder said, “I understand what you’re saying, but I think it’s just not quite exactly right.”
“You know, you could be opposed to Obamacare but I think what we’re looking at here is we had a chance to fix one of those repercussions of Obamacare,” he added. “In my opinion, the Affordable Care Act is what caused this discrepancy in insurance premiums in the state of Colorado in rural areas.”
After Bob Seay, secretary for the Colorado Democratic Party and a former candidate for Congress, pressed Crowder on why Republicans didn’t get on board with a reinsurance program sooner, Crowder said they were “not aware it existed.”
In 2018, however, lawmakers introduced a nearly identical reinsurance bill. The bill was approved by the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives but failed after it was rejected by Republicans in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee.
Crowder says he didn’t know about the bill in 2018 because it never made it to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee where he sits.
“Since this went to the veterans committee, and since this was killed in committee I would have no knowledge of this bill,” Crowder said.