Archive for the 'Colorado U.S. Senate' Category

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

Monday, 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).

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

Wednesday, 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?”

 

 

 

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

Tuesday, 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:

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

Monday, 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?

Gardner is mad about insurance costs, but they’d go up more under Obamacare replacement than under Obamacare

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

On a national conservative radio show Tuesday, guest hosted by Denver’s Ross Kaminsky, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) cited increased health-insurance costs and stated that the “most important thing we can do for this country is to make sure we have a replacement for Obamacare.”

But neither Kaminsky nor Gardner pointed out that under the U.S. Senate’s proposed Obamacare replacement, insurance rates are projected to go up more than they would if Obamacare remained in place, according to figures released by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. .

Gardner must not be reading The Denver Post, because Kaiser’s Colorado-specific facts were presented there, in an article by John Ingold:

[Under the Senate bill,] for a 40-year-old making $50,000 a year, a mid-level “silver” plan on the state’s insurance exchange would cost:

$1,930 more per year in Mesa County.
$0 more per year in Denver.
$910 more per year in Yuma County.

For a 60-year-old making $30,000 a year, the same level plan would cost:

$3,230 more per year in Mesa County.
$2,710 more per year in Denver.
$2,820 more per year in Yuma County.

For a 27-year-old making $20,000 a year, the same level plan would cost:

$700 more per year in Mesa County
$550 more per year in Denver.
$580 more per year in Yuma County.

Overall, the Kaiser report projects marketplace enrollees to pay 74 percent more in insurance premiums.

Kaiser Family Foundation: “Overall, marketplace enrollees would pay on average 74 percent more towards the premium for a benchmark silver plan in 2020 under the BCRA [Senate bill] than under current law (Table 1). Younger enrollees would see modest increases on average (10 percent for those under age 18; 17 percent for those ages 18 to 34), while average premiums would more than double for enrollees ages 55 to 64.

On the radio, Gardner said insurance “executives” told him that the Senate bill will “bend the cost curve down,” and they will be able to “reduce rates.”

This is in line with what he told Denver Post reporter Mark Matthews Monday.

“Over the weekend I had conversations with CEOs (including at least one official at) Blue Cross Blue Shield, who said their support for the bill is robust,” Gardner said of the health insurance giant. “They believe that it would markedly help stabilize the market, so I’ve got to go through each and every one of those arguments and see whether or not this achieves that.”

Gardner’s DC office did not return my call seeking the names of the insurance executives he spoke with and an explanation of why he would believe them more than the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

This post was updated to include information about Gardner’s statement to The Denver Post Monday. 

Will Gardner slip by reporters again on Planned Parenthood?

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner built his political career in Colorado, and rallied grassroots Republican support, by opposing abortion, even for rape and incest. Part of that, of course, has meant that he’s opposed and vilified Planned Parenthood.

Now it appears that the Senate’s Obamacare-replacement legislation would remove federal funds for Planned Parenthood, just like the House version did.

And you’d expect Gardner to be fully on board with this.

After he voted to defund Planned Parenthood two years ago, Gardner said,

“We voted to take the money from Planned Parenthood and distribute it to the community health clinics around the state of Colorado,” Gardner told KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis in 2015.

He said the move would provide “more access” to men and women across the state, even though many low-income woman want to go to Planned Parenthood clinics for specific and understandable reasons, like privacy, trust, and convenience.

And even though no federal funds are used for abortions at Planned Parenthood, the organization provides abortions. In contrast, community health centers don’t offer abortion services that many woman obviously want available at their clinic of choice in the year 2017.

But Gardner apparently doesn’t think women care. When confronted with his extreme anti-choice positions during the 2014 election, Gardner responded by saying Democrat Mark Udall was trying to “distract voters” from the real issues.

Now Gardner should face the same question from reporters. Does he think women in Colorado care about Planned Parenthood? About the U.S. Senate’s and the Republican Party’s assault on abortion rights?

Gardner may try to say his opposition to Planned Parenthood isn’t about opposition to Planned Parenthood, just like he tried to say, during his last election campaign, that his support of abortion-ban legislation wasn’t support for an abortion ban.

Despite heroic efforts by journalists to untangle Gardner’s wordpile on his support for an abortion ban, packaged at the time as “personhood,” Gardner got away with it. He’s Colorado’s Senator.

Will he slip by again on Planned Parenthood?

Key question for Gardner is, how many Coloradans would lose insurance under GOP Obamacare replacement?

Monday, June 19th, 2017

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner continues to talk about making Medicaid “sustainable” and stable, but the key question Gardner needs to answer is, Will Colorado Medicaid recipients lose health insurance under the GOP’s Obamacare replacement?” And if so, how many? And how long a “glide path” until they’re cut out?

That question cuts through Gardner’s vagaries about what will happen to Medicaid under the Senate’s Obamacare-replacement bill, which Gardner is helping to draft in secret. On this topic, Gardner has said:

Gardner June 15: “If you don’t have a sustainable Medicaid program, then you risk the Medicaid programs.”

Gardner June 14 (at 9 min 30 sec). “A health care plan that focuses on … making sure that we make Medicaid sustainable and allow a program that gives greater functionality and flexibility to the sates to manage that program in a way that the states know how to do better for their people than Washington does….”

Gardner also frequently says he wants to pass a law that’s “better than Obamacare.”

Great. But in the name of alleged improvement, sustainability, and stability, how many Coloradans will lose health insurance?

About 400,000 Coloradans gained insurance under Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to include adults, without children, who earn less than $16,000 per year. Under the Obamacare-replacement bill passed by the U.S. House, 14 million Medicaid recipients would lose coverage within a year, and 12 million more would be dropped within 10 years. Within five years, most of the 400,000 who gained insurance in Colorado are expected to lose it.

Back in March, Gardner was tagged as a defender or Medicaid when he signed a letter, along with Republican Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, stating that “we will not support a [Obamacare replacement] plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states.”

Again, the key question is, how many Coloradans will lose coverage in the name of stability?

Cutting through the spin: Gardner wants to end, not protect, insurance coverage for 400,000 Coloradans

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Back in March, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner joined fellow Republican Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, in stating that “we will not support a [Obamacare replacement] plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states.”

Since then, Portman and Capito have added a measure of definition to this vague statement by endorsing a seven-year phaseout of Obama’s Medicaid expansion, which provided over 400,00 Coloradans with health insurance. Portman called it a “glide path” that would gradually reduce federal Medicaid funding to the states beginning in 2020.

But Murkowski and Gardner are refusing to discuss their current thinking on the Medicaid expansion. The Hill asked Murkowski twice last week if she’d agree to a gradual phaseout, and she declined to say.

In May, Gardner declined to answer a direct question from The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews about whether he supports the plan, in the Obamacare replacement bill passed by the House, to begin the Medicaid-expansion phaseout in 2020.

But Gardner did tell Matthews,“We need to have a glide path that works for the states.”

In the absence of more details from Gardner, journalists are on solid ground reporting that Gardner is on board with ending the Obamacare Medicaid program that covers over 400,000 Coloradans. The only question is the time frame, the number of years in the glide path.

And journalists are also completely justified in reporting that Gardner’s phaseout doesn’t square Gardner’s promise to defend the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, as stated in the The Denver Post’s March 6 article headlined, “Sen. Cory Gardner defends Medicaid expansion as GOP reveals Obamacare replacement.”

During the 2014 campaign, and ever since the first Ryan budget introduced a partial privatization of Medicare, the often repeated message from Gardner was that making dramatic cuts to health programs was a way to protect them for future generations.

Now Gardner is talking about a “glide path.”

These sort of policy justifications can make sense within their own inverted logic, but the plain meaning of the words are likely lost on the average voter. Journalists have the burden of making sure the facts are presented alongside the spin.

Bennet defends journalism, saying Trump has “hard time” distinguishing between reality and “somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet”

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet took the fight against fake news to the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, saying Trump resorts to “talking about ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like [journalists’] reporting” and that Trump has a “hard time” distinguishing between “something that is real” and “somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet.”

Bennet did not suggest, as I would have done, that Trump sign the Fake News Pledge for elected officials, but it’s great to a politician stand up for journalists, who are almost as unpopular as politicians themselves. Which is exactly why Trump attack them.

Bennet made the fake news remark as part of a blistering attack on Trump, focused on his firing of FBI Director James Comey but touching on Trump’s overall disrespect for American institutions of government.

Watch Bennet here.

And here are his comments on journalism and fake news:

Bennet (at 5:30): And [the American people] remember his attacks on the free press as well, when he doesn’t like their reporting and his resorting to talking about ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like their reporting. Mr. President, I have had to talk to so many high school students. and middle school students in Colorado over the last four or five months about this whole question of fake news and what the importance is of edited content to our society–and again to the rule of law. The importance that middle school students and high school students place on edited content on curated content, their ability to distinguish between something that is science or something that is real, something that is edited versus somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet. The president has a hard time making that distinction as well.

Reporters should persist in asking for Gardner’s nonexistent Obamacare replacement

Monday, May 1st, 2017

 

Appearing on a conservative radio show last week, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said it’s “politics at its worst” to be “celebrating the defeat of a replacement” for Obamacare.

Politics at its worst looks more like Gardner’s vicious opposition to Obamacare for seven years, then being unable to point to a replacement he actually supports.

Even now, after all the embarrassing GOP drama on this issue, Gardner is trashing Obamacare without offering a solution.

On KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis Show April 27, Gardner said it was “way too early” to comment on Trump’s latest Obamacare replacement proposal.

And Gardner was undecided, even vaguely critical, of the last month’s failed Trump-Ryan bill that was crashed with such drama.

But Gardner has the audacity to continue to insist that some unknown replacement be produced.

“But what I will tell you is this,” Gardner told Caplis, “We have to put something in place of the Affordable Care Act that actually works. And the Affordable Care Act has hurt hundreds of thousands of Coloradans through higher premiums, made access to insurance nearly impossible because of those higher costs, costs people their doctor. We have to do better. And for anybody, particularly for partisan reasons, to say they want to keep the Affordable Care Act in place, and it’s an absolute failure. And they are celebrating the defeat of a replacement. You know, that’s politics at its worst.”

Gardner was more subdued on 9News’ Balance of Power on Sunday, telling Brandon Rittiman,

“What I am looking for in a health care bill is something that is going to reduce costs and give access to people in the state of Colorado and across the country that they otherwise wouldn’t have. I hope we’ll have bipartisan support to do that.”

So, whether media figures see the hard-edged edition of Gardner (e.g., on talk radio) or the softer Gardner (e.g., on 9News) they should keep asking what health care bill Gardner supports.