Gardner wants to lower insurance costs, but where’s his plan to do so?

August 14th, 2017

With U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) first solo town hall in about 500 days coming up tomorrow, it’s worth reviewing how Gardner responded to questions at the skinny town hall he held in Durango, with other lawmakers, Aug. 4.

As expected, Gardner was was asked repeatedly about his votes for Obamacare replacement legislation that would have thrown tens of millions off the Medicaid insurance rolls. Gardner’s core defense, which he’s repeated numerous times, is: He’s mad as hell about health insurance costs and he wants a plan to lower them.

In Durango Gardner said (at 36 minutes 30 seconds here): “What we have right have right now isn’t working… What have to do  is find something that is actually going to do what you and I think both want to do, and that’s find something a way to drive down the costs of healthcare. We have to drive down the costs of health care.”

Everyone would love to bring down the cost of health care, but Gardner has yet to put a proposal on the table that would do this.

For example, the Obamacare replacement bill (BCRA) that Gardner voted for in the U.S. Senate, which was defeated by a 57-43 vote, would have increased insurance rates by 74 percent for market place enrollees above what’s expected under Obamacare, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

So Gardner voted for legislation that would make insurance costs worse! Why? The senate bill wouldn’t have improved market insurance rates for anyone in Denver, Mesa, or Yuma counties.

Another point worth revisiting from Gardner’s skinny town hall was his assertion that he wants to “stabilize the insurance markets.”

In Durango Gardner said (at 36 minutes 30 seconds here): “What we ought to do is stabilize the insurance markets. We we ought to do is put Medicaid in a sustainable fashion, keeping that important safety need. So that it is there for people in this country who truly need it… I believe we can do better. And that’s why I hope we have a bipartisan solution.”

Recall that Gardner helped sabotage Obamacare by stripping from the healthcare law a program to stabilize insurance markets.

Then, Gardner voted for the same program when it was included in Senate repeal-and-replace legislation (BCRA).

Denver Post article should stop conservatives from misrepresenting the Medicaid budget and scapegoating low-income people

August 11th, 2017

I can’t tell ya how excited I was to read, “Is Medicaid Gobbling Up Colorado’s Budget,” in The Denver Post, and reporter John Ingold did not let me down.

The piece provides a sober look at the repeated Republican allegation, documented multiple times on this blog, that if not for Democrat-led healthcare spending on children, elderly, disabled, and other poor people, there would be no budget crisis and the pavers would likely be doing their thing on every street corner.

Here are some takeaways from Ingold’s piece:

Killing Obamacare won’t free up money for roads, schools, or other wish-list spending.

We already knew this, but Ingold nails the door to the crazyhouse shut by finding out from Henry Sobanet, Hick’s budget director, that the small percentage of Colorado dollars that pay for Obamacare, also called the Medicaid expansion, can’t be used for general budget expenses.

“We could cancel the expansion, and we wouldn’t save a dollar in the general fund,” Sobanet told Ingold.

But something tells me, if I turn on the radio this morning, I’ll still hear a conservative blaming Obamacare for Colorado’s budget crisis.

Expunging “able-bodied” people from Colorado’s Medicaid rolls won’t do much for roads or the budget

That’s because, as Ingold reports, cutting “non-disabled adults” from Medicaid would free up “hundreds of millions of dollars” out of a $10 billion budget:

…Colorado could remove all non-disabled adults from the program — cutting its Medicaid population almost in half —  and the savings to use elsewhere in the budget would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, not in the billions of dollars. (The state’s total general fund budget this year is $10.6 billion.)

And if you cut non-disabled people from Medicaid, you’re left with the collateral social costs of dealing with the lives you’ve blown up, not to mention the weight on your conscience from your decision to reject this group of people, who mostly the working poor.

Colorado’s Medicaid costs are increasing, but actual-factual ways to bring down costs look to be cruel and illusive. 

Ingold reports, “Tackling bigger areas of general-fund Medicaid spending means focusing on other groups. People with disabilities and people in nursing homes, for instance, make up 10 percent of the state’s Medicaid enrollment — but account for 42 percent of state Medicaid spending.”

Who are the “able-bodied” adults whom conservatives want to kick off Medicaid?

This question is left unanswered in Ingold’s otherwise excellent article, and it’s a seriously important question, because the phrase “able-bodied” has become a buzzword among conservatives at the top of the heap, like U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, to talk-radio hosts, and others at the bottom of the heap, for attacking Medicaid recipients. U.S. Rep. Ken Buck expressed the view clearly when he told The Boulder Daily Camera: “I’m not in favor of able-bodied people with no child care responsibilities getting squat.”

I’ll write more about this later, but it turns out, in short, able-bodied Medicaid recipients are truly poor people, most of whom are actually working.

In fact, 75 percent of the adults who got health insurance under Obamacare, about 400,000 in Colorado, who make up a sizable chunk of the “able-bodied” Medicaid group, are working. For a single adult, to be eligible for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, you have to earn less than $16,00. For a family of four, it’s about $32,000.

Bottom line: This article should help fact-conscious politicians have more informed debates about Medicaid spending in Colorado. And it should help stop the stomach-turning scapegoating of low-income people that we hear from conservatives.

 

Coffman’s support for killing Obamacare via repeal-later raises questions

August 10th, 2017

Recall that Congressman Mike Coffman of Aurora promised to vote for the first House measure to kill Obamacare, a measure that would have taken away health insurance from millions of people.

Then he voted against the second House bill, which also would have pushed millions off the health insurance rolls, and it seemed his first promised vote disappeared.

Now it turns out that he’d have also voted for the repeal-later measure, which would leave an unknown number millions with no health insurance.

Asked by 9News’ Marshall Zelinger Aug. 6 (at 1:30 here) if he’d support a “straight repeal,” Coffman replied:

Coffman: “If you said, ‘Well, okay, we’re going to repeal,’ and the date certain for the repeal was long enough out, where it wouldn’t disrupt the markets, and it gave Congress adequate time, I think that would be appropriate.”

It’s worth getting more details from Coffman, whose office doesn’t return my calls, in case it comes up again.

Why does he think there could be agreement on an Obamacare replacement in the future when there was no agreement in seven years?

When he says he wants a date-certain for an Obamacare repeal to be “far enough out,” does he mean longer than seven years? How long?

Why wouldn’t the uncertainty of not having a replacement in hand disrupt the markets no matter how “far out” the repael date is, given the inability of Republicans to agree on a replacement in seven years?

Those are a few of the questions for Coffman.

An early version of this post incorrectly characterized Coffman’s proposal as repeal-now-and-replace-later.

 

Why won’t Gardner have a serious conversation about what he’s doing in Washington?

July 26th, 2017

If you’re a reporter, what to do with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)?

Assuming he gives you an interview (it took 9News weeks to get one), you’re facing a politician who’s apparently committed not to discuss any of the details of the GOP’s landmark Obamacare replacement bill. He won’t say what he likes, what he doesn’t like, or how he’d vote.

Today, 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman boiled it down to a simple, “Are there any deal breakers? Are there things you do not want to see in any legislation?”

And Gardner dodged.

Rittaman followed up with a specific example of what could be a deal breaker: “What about the people on expanded Medicaid in Colorado, because a lot of new people got coverage that way. Is it important that they can keep the coverage they got under Obamacare?”

And Gardner dodged.

Rittiman asked Gardner if he’ll hold “any sort of town-hall meeting” during the August recess.

And Gardner dodged.

So what do you do with Gardner?

How about something like, “Hey, let’s stop playing this game, Sen. Gardner. It’s clear you won’t talk about specific elements that you favor or oppose in the healthcare bill. Why?

Why do you have nothing to say about the substance of the bill or any parts of it? Do you think serious questions will hurt your negotiating position? Anger your constituents? Republican donors?

Why won’t you have a serious conversation about what you’re doing in Washington?”

 

 

 

Former GOP official says his Facebook suggestion to “disembowel” columnist Littwin was “figurative”

July 25th, 2017

Roesener littwin 7-2017A prominent Garfield County Republican told me that he was being “figurative” when he wrote on Facebook this week that “someone should disembowel” Mike Littwin, a columnist for the Colorado Independent, a progressive news outlet.

“You Mike Littwin, are such a nefarious, full of mendacity individual, someone should disembowel you on the stairs of the State capitol,” wrote Ron Roesener, who gave up his position of GOP Garfield County Chair this year.

“Well, it was figurative,” he told me when asked about the Facebook post, which was obtained from a source. “I am not going to come down there with my gun and shoot him. Don’t worry.”

That’s good news, and I believe him.

Roesener, who ran for state house in 2012, went on to toss out more commonly heard verbal assaults, calling Littwin a “spineless person.” He alleged that Littwin refused an invitation to come to Garfield County to debate a local Republican. Roesener called Littwin a “1960’s hippie” who should get a “promotion to CNN.”

I asked Littwin via email if he’s getting more extreme or threatening messages lately.

“There is more anger generally at the media today than any time I’ve seen, but that was growing, as I don’t have to tell you, long before Trump’s phony-baloney war on the press,” he wrote. “In most cases today, despite the occasional call for ‘figurative’ disemboweling, and despite congressmen who body-slam reporters, and despite presidents who accuse journalists of being enemies of the people, most of the angry mail I get is to accuse me of creating fake news and most of the nasty stuff I get on Facebook, at least when I post my Colorado Independent columns, is from a small group of trollers. I figure, at least they’re reading.”

As you’d expect to hear from a great writer who’s been at it for more than 30 years, Littwin has seen worse missives than Roesener’s.

“When I worked at the LA Times, at a time I wasn’t yet a full-time columnist, this one guy would write me long unsigned letters blasting every piece I wrote. When I left to become a columnist at the Baltimore Sun, I got a hand-delivered letter in Baltimore from this guy the day after my first column ran at the Sun. It was pretty creepy. But I never heard from the guy again. Such is the life of a columnist. I used to get a lot of really disgusting, anti-Semitic mail, just foul Nazi-style, skinhead stuff. When I wrote a part-time column for the Virginian-Pilot in my youth, I’d get a lot of what I called long-haired, n-loving, commie, pinko mail. I got a lot of that in Baltimore, too. Before anonymous email, you’d get anonymous snail mail, with pretty laughable (I hoped) threats to kill me or worse.”

You want to laugh when someone threatens you, but, as Littwin says, all you can do is hope.  I wish everyone would read about the horrible deaths and torture of reporters across the globe (46 died last year), from Mexico to Afghanistan to Turkey.

After Trump released a video cartoon depicting himself attacking CNN, Bruce Brown, director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, stated:

“Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy. The press are the people’s window into the halls of power, and most importantly, they are the people’s check on that power. When the president attacks the press, he attacks the people.”

Buck: Russia-Trump collusion investigation has “no substance”

July 24th, 2017

The last time U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) compared the Russia investigation with the conspiracy around Obama’s birth certificate, Buck left open the possibility that evidence of Trump colluding with Russia may still emerge.

Buck stated in May that he hoped Trump would be cleared, adding: “I also think that politically, people are going to be raising this issue just like people raised the birth certificate or other issues on President Obama that I didn’t think were credible but that some people did. And they kept gnawing at it.”

Buck’s comment led Colorado Politics’ Dan Njegomir to offer this interpretation:

Njegomir: What Buck also seemed to be saying is that the Russia allegations — whether they ultimately prove true, are somehow debunked or remain inconclusive — have assumed a life of their own. They have become a mantra of the left much as the former president’s country of origin assumed mythic proportion for the birthers on the right.

In his latest comment on the topic, on KVOR on Saturday, Buck completely dismissed the Russia investigation, making Njegomir’s charitable interpretation hard to defend.

Buck said the investigation has “no substance” and “diverts attention from the real issues that we need to address.”

Here you go:

HOST JEFF CRANK: Let me ask — on the Russia issue — you alluded to it. I’ve talked about it here. I think it is just the grand diversion of the left. And when I say the left, it’s the Democrats and it’s the media who doesn’t like Donald Trump. There’s not been a shred of evidence that there is collusion. But we’re talking about Russia constantly. Your thoughts on that?

U.S. REP. KEN BUCK: Well, I think that’s right. I was a prosecutor–as you know, Jeff – for 25 years. And I go to the town hall meetings and people keep on bringing up Russia. To me it is the equivalent of the far right conspiracy theory about Pres. Obama’s birth certificate. I think it has no substance. I think it diverts attention from the real issues that we need to address. And we are going to regret in 10-15 years — when we go off the fiscal cliff, when we can’t afford to do the things they we’re doing right now, when we can’t borrow money to keep our government going in this artificial way – we’re going to regret the fact that we didn’t spend time and focus as a country on the important issues and problems that we have.

Listen here:

Former state representative will consider removing fake news from her Facebook page

July 21st, 2017

marsha looper posts fake news about muslim rape 7-17Former state Rep. Marsha Looper (R-Calhan) shared a fake news item on her Facebook page recently, with flat-out falsehoods and exaggerations about a rape that did not occur, as alleged, in Idaho

The Idaho Statesman reported:

The incident touched off months of turmoil in Twin Falls after the story was spun into a fake news account that exaggerated or flat-out falsified many of the details, including that a knife was present, the attack was perpetrated by a Syrian gang of adult men, that a rape had occurred and that the attack was celebrated by the perpetrators’ families as city officials orchestrated a cover-up.

Snopes also determined the item to be “mostly false.

See Looper’s post, from “SilenceIsConsent.net,” above.

Looper, who left office in 2012, told me today that she’d review the fact checks of the item and, if she agrees, remove it from her Facebook page.

Gardner: “If you repeal it now, with nothing in its place, what happens if you don’t find that replacement?”

July 18th, 2017

With U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky’s announcement that he’s dumped his bill to replace Obamacare and, instead, will push legislation to repeal the health care law without replacing it for up to two years, a comment by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) sounds a ton more significant today than it did July 6 when Gardner uttered it on KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis Show.

CAPLIS: And last question: as you know, Ben Sasse and some others have been talking about, now, “repeal and replace later, separately.” Where do you come down on that?

GARDNER: Look, I think that if you repeal it now, with nothing in its place, what happens if you don’t find that replacement? What happens if you don’t reach that agreement? And I think that we ought to move forward with an idea now, and put a solution forward to the American people. Look, this is something that Republicans and Democrats ought to find common ground with, because if Democrats refuse to find a solution to a failing Obamacare, shame on them!

CAPLIS: Right.

GARDNER: And that’s what we have to realize, is, the status quo isn’t good enough. And the alternative is a single-payer healthcare system. And look what happened in England, right now, with that child. The parents no longer have the ability to help — excuse me, no longer have the ability to determine their child’s state, because it’s in the hands of the government.

Gardner has yet to talk to journalists about the implosion of the senate healthcare legislation, so, for now, this looks like the only comment reporters have to go on from our senator, who’s a Republican leader in the U.S. Senate and who helped draft McConnell’s bill.

Listen to Gardner on KNUS-710-AM July 6:

Seven state lawmakers sign the Fake News Pledge

July 14th, 2017

Scott Nov. 6 Wikileaks fake newsThe Fake News Pledge has now been signed by seven state lawmakers, all Democrats: State Representatives Mike Foote of Lafayette, Susan Lontine of Denver, Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs, and Michael Weissman of Aurora as well as State Sen. Irene Aguilar of Denver, State Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver, and State Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City.

The Pledge is a promise not to spread fake news on Facebook. It defines fake news as a story “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet.” It also must be “packaged to look somehow like news.” Everyone who supports factual discourse, Dem or Republican, should support it.

Westword’s Michael Roberts’ post on this topic today shows why the Pledge isn’t an empty gesture: Colorado state lawmakers and candidates spread obvious fake news on their Facebook pages. Look at the Westword piece, take a step back for a moment, and you realize realize how unbelievably crazy it is for elected officials and candidates to post this kind of stuff.

As far as I know, this is the only tangible step by state lawmakers nationally to fight fake news.

So the signers deserve our thanks for having the guts to try to do something.

And please note those who wouldn’t sign: Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) and Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton). Neville told me that “each individual has to be the arbiter of fake news. Lundberg said the term fake news “smacks of a new censorship.”

Overall, I’ve found six Colorado state legislators who posted fake news on their Facebook pages (See here and here). Two removed it (State Rep. Polly Lawrence and former State Rep. Kit Roupe). Two told me they would not remove it (former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt and State Sen. Tim Neville). Neville posted this: “Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming.” And two lawmakers did not respond to my request that it be deleted (State Rep. Ray Scott, and former State Sen. Laura Woods).

After launching the Pledge, I was accused of being a “fake reporter” by former State Sen. Greg Brophy. And other conservatives attacked me, as if my being progressive somehow undermines the pledge. I am progressive, and I’m paid by progressives. I don’t hide it. But I’m committed to being factual in my writing–and we all can expect the same from our state lawmakers of any political stripe. So I’m hoping more of them sign the Pledge.

Questions for Gardner about the U.S. Senate’s health care bill

July 10th, 2017

Here’s my list of key questions for Gardner. Please add yours in the comment section.

  • What’s the highest number of people in Colorado who’d be projected to lose health insurance under the senate bill—and you’d still vote for it?
  • You’re not yet accepting the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate that 22 million people would lose health insurance under the senate bill. If not the CBO, who will you trust to analyze the bill?
  • Your opponents accuse you of sabotaging Obamacare. Here’s one example they point to. Back in 2013, you and U.S. Sen Marco Rubio of Florida opposed “bailouts” of insurance companies as part of Obamacare. They were referred to as risk corridors. Is it fair to say that withholding those payments destabilized the marketplace? And now, experts say, Republican are proposing insurance-company bailouts for the same reason, to stabilize the marketplace. Are you okay with voting for the bailouts in the current bill?
  • You’ve said an Obamacare replacement should lower premiums. The nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation says that, under the current bill, premiums would rise faster than under Obamacare. Would you vote for a senate bill if the Kaiser Foundation found that under the senate bill, premiums would rise faster than under Obamacare.
  • Please talk about your roll in drafting the bill. People don’t understand how you were a drafter of the bill, especially the Medicaid part, but never saw drafts of it.
  • You’ve said that if the senate doesn’t pass a bill, the only alternative to Obamacare is a single-payer system. Why do you think this?
  • The nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute estimates that Colorado would lose at least $14 billion in federal Medicaid funds during the first 10 years after passage of the senate bill. How would you cut Colorado’s Medicaid program in future years as federal funds decrease and lawmakers will have to reduce services?
  • Should Colorado pick up the tab for lost Medicaid funding, or should the next governor and state legislature push people off the rolls or cut services?
  • Along these lines, if the senate bill passes, would you support a tax increase in Colorado, so that the state could afford to cover children, seniors, and people with disabilities?
  • Federal law mandates that hospitals accept sick people in emergency rooms. So are you okay with pushing people off Medicaid and, in effect, forcing hospitals to pick up the tab for emergency room by, at least, some of them?
  • You’ve said you want to make Medicaid sustainable. Are you saying you want to cut Medicaid to make it sustainable? If not, how else would you achieve your goal of making it sustainable?
  • You will not reveal if you’d vote for the senate legislation as drafted. But do you support the framework of the bill, which is to take health insurance away from Medicaid recipients and give a tax cut to wealthy Americans?
  • Your opponents are concerned that Republicans want to all insurance companies to sell so-called “junk” plans, which require lots of out-of-pocket payments. If the senate bill lowers premiums for some people, but raises out-of-pocket costs for most everybody, does that mean that insurance is less expensive or more expensive?
  • Will you vote for the senate bill if there are no hearings and regular order, as you’ve promised?
  • Rural hospitals depend on Medicaid funding. Are you willing to assure rural Coloradans that no rural hospital will close, if the the senate bill became law?
  • Will you hold a town hall meeting on health care, and if not, why not?