The GOP’s Evolutionary Opposition to the Hospital-Provider Fee

If you’re a journalist or even a blogger, you love to point out evolutionary explanations by politicians for taking a political stance. Inconsistencies, when one politician’s statement one day contradicts what she said previously, are better, but changing justifications for taking a political position are a close second on the hypocrisy scale, because they’re a likely indicator that politicians have ulterior motives, which they’re struggling to hide by trying to come up with a false explanation that makes sense.

So here’s a brief history of GOP lawmakers’ explanations for their opposition to the hospital-provider fee, first, and then, later, for their opposition to turning it into a Tabor-defined enterprise zone, which would free up about $370 million for highways, schools, and other government projects that lack funding.

It would increase the federal deficit. Back in 2009, when Democrats first proposed tapping federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income children and others, Republicans didn’t say they were opposed to helping the kids and the poor. They worried about increasing the federal deficit.

It would run up medical expenses that would be shifted to non-Medicaid patients. Back in 2009, in addition to the deficit, Republicans fretted about whether hospitals could pass on the Medicaid costs to upstanding insured people, despite a lack of evidence over how they could do this. If anything, the fee helped offset a shift that was burdening insured people.

It would burden working families. “It’s only to expand government and to expand an entitlement program one more time,” Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, told The Denver Post in 2009. “It’s simply a shell game where the governor is shifting cost to working families who are already struggling to pay their bills.” No evidence of how the alleged shift would affect working families emerged–other than the amorphous worry that the federal government might stop paying its share.

Between 209 and this year, after the hospital provider fee was in place and helping hundreds of thousands of actual factual poor people, Colorado Republicans continued to try to repeal it, but their venom toward the fee didn’t really emerge again until the last couple years, when Democrats tried to re-define the fee under TABOR, as a small step toward addressing the state’s budget woes.

First, they argued that the Democrats plan was unconstitutional. But GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman thought otherwise, ruling that the Dem plan meets constitutional muster.

Then they tried to destract reporters by saying Obamacare is the cause our budget problems, which it isn’t.

Then Republicans argued that the TABOR enterprise would require “rebasing” the budget, which would eliminate the availability of money for schools, roads, etc. But The Denver Post eviscerated this argument over the weekend, writing:

“The current TABOR threshold, which is adjusted every year based on population and inflation, was established in fiscal 2007-08, before the hospital fee was enacted. That fee came on in 2009.

In other words, the spending limit would be the same today if the hospital fee had never existed, or if it had been created as a separate enterprise right at the outset.”

So here we are on Monday, another new week and you wonder what’s next. Will the evolutionary explanations continue? You have to think Republicans will come up with something new, given the history, which points to an ideological opposition any growth in government spending, no matter how the spending is paid for.

That’s an honest position but it requires an explanation of how Colorado pays for roads, schools, medical care for the poor and disabled, and more. Should government stop funding these things or cut back. And if not, how to fund them?


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