COLORADO SUN: “Cory Gardner Wants to Get Rid of Obamacare. But It’s Not Clear What He Plans to Replace It With.”

COLORADO SUN: “Cory Gardner Wants to Get Rid of Obamacare. But It’s Not Clear What He Plans to Replace It With.”

Health care expert: Gardner’s sham health care bill “a political document, and it looks like all it’s designed to do is give Sen. Gardner a convenient talking point”

Denver, CO – In two new reports from the Colorado Sun, Senator Cory Gardner fails to defend his record of crusading against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement and introducing an 11th-hour hollow bill that would not cover people with pre-existing conditions.

The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports that Gardner still “wants to get rid of Obamacare,” but he “doesn’t have an overarching bill outlining a plan to replace” the law — likely leaving hundreds of thousands of Coloradans without health care coverage and threatening millions more with pre-existing conditions. 

Health care reporter John Ingold also takes a deep look at the stunt one-sentence pre-existing conditions bill Gardner introduced last month. Experts slam that bill as a mere “political document” and a “convenient talking point” that does not actually protect people with pre-existing conditions. Gardner’s stunt bill was already shredded by 9News as “horse excrement,” former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as “nonsense,” and a variety of health care experts and advocates.  

Gardner has voted at least 13 times to repeal, block, or defund the ACA and supports the GOP lawsuit that could eliminate protections for 2.4 million Coloradans with pre-existing conditions in the middle of a pandemic.

Read the highlights below or full articles HERE and HERE.

Cory Gardner wants to get rid of Obamacare. But it’s not clear what he plans to replace it with
The Republican senator from Colorado talks more often about what he doesn’t want — Obamacare, a public option, Medicare For All — than his ideas on how to achieve his goals of driving down costs and improving care
By Jesse Paul | September 2, 2020

Cory Gardner doesn’t like Obamacare.

Ask Gardner for his plans to replace the law, however, and his response will probably be more about what he’s against — Democratic proposals for a public health insurance option or “Medicare for All” — than what he’s working toward.

But if Gardner and congressional Republicans have a better idea, they haven’t shared it.

“Cory Gardner said he would be an independent voice for Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a campaign video. “He said he would protect preexisting conditions. He says a lot of things. Then he goes to Washington.”

“Each time the Republicans promised that they would have a better plan, a different plan, a replacement plan —  the Republicans have no health care plan,” said Kathleen Sebelius, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, in a recent interview with The Colorado Sun.

Adding to the difficult politics around the health care law, polling shows Americans increasingly like Obamacare, meaning that calling for its demise may no longer be so advantageous. 

Gardner’s campaign argues that…the senator doesn’t have an overarching bill outlining a plan to replace Obamacare…

Democrats argue that without a comprehensive replacement to the Affordable Care Act, repealing it would be disastrous. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to rule after the November election on a Republican challenge, backed by the Trump administration, to the constitutionality of the law. Gardner has refused to say if he supports the legal action, which threatens to invalidate Obamacare, but Democrats contend his silence is proof that he’s either ambivalent or supportive of the effort to unwind the policy in the nation’s highest court. 

Democrats say the Affordable Care Act needs to be expanded because premium costs are too high, particularly for those who seek plans on the individual market in rural areas, like Colorado’s Eastern Plains or Western Slope, where prices can be astronomical. 

Hickenlooper is advocating for the addition of a public health insurance option on top of Obamacare, which he hopes will increase competition and drive down costs.

But so far, with Election Day fast approaching, Republicans have not introduced a comprehensive plan and the Affordable Care Act’s future remains uncertain.

Colorado Sun: Here’s how Cory Gardner’s bill would and wouldn’t protect people with preexisting conditions
The Affordable Care Act already safeguards people from being charged more for health insurance based on medical history, and Gardner’s bill contains none of the usual features of legislation
By John Ingold | September 2, 2020

This, in a tortured-metaphor kind of way, explains why health policy experts say that Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act of 2020 wouldn’t entirely do what its title promises…It doesn’t contain many other provisions that supporters of the current law say are needed to keep the rest of the health insurance policy apparatus from cracking apart like so much fallen china. On top of that, the bill doesn’t contain any of the usual features of legislation that are needed for implementation.

The ACA is still the law of the land, at least for the time being. And, while it may be most famous for providing protections for preexisting conditions, the law contains a number of other mechanisms designed to make insurance affordable, accessible and fair to all people. Here’s a rundown:

Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan who is a national expert in health law, said the bill would mean insurers “could altogether refuse to sell coverage to that person. I don’t care what Senator Gardner’s office thinks the bill says. That’s in fact what it says.”

Gardner’s bill does not contain a guarantee of specific coverage benefits. Without such a provision, an insurer could decide it wouldn’t cover treatment for certain chronic diseases for anyone, regardless of when they develop the disease, making a promise to protect that preexisting condition meaningless, health policy experts say.

Gardner’s bill contains no subsidy provisions.

“If you guarantee coverage for preexisting conditions and didn’t do anything to attract healthy people to the market, the premiums would just explode,” said Larry Levitt, the executive vice president for health policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation and a former policy advisor to the Clinton administration. “There’s nothing in Sen. Gardner’s bill to preserve the premium subsidies that are in the Affordable Care Act if it were overturned.”

So, for the most part, everything that’s in Gardner’s bill is already in current law.

Currently, about 115,000 people in Colorado purchase insurance with the help of federal subsidies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Combine that with the more than 420,000 people who have gained coverage under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in Colorado, and you have more than a half-million people in the state who would suddenly lose or struggle to afford health insurance if the ACA went away. That’s nearly 10% of the state’s population.

Typically, bills contain definitions of the terms used in them and citations of existing law that the bill would either amend or be added to. That allows regulators to implement them in the way they were intended and gives judges the chance to read the new provisions in the context of the surrounding laws when interpreting them.

Gardner’s bill doesn’t have that, which is unusual, Bagley said.

“It’s unusual to have a federal law that doesn’t indicate which U.S. code section it would go in,” he wrote in an email. “That’s especially so in the health-care space, since there’s already so much law on the books.”

The lack of specificity in Gardner’s health bill leads Bagley to conclude that the proposal “isn’t a genuine effort to address the deep problems in a complex health care system. It’s a political document, and it looks like all it’s designed to do is give Sen. Gardner a convenient talking point.”

But Levitt said protecting preexisting conditions is simply more complicated than it appears. 

“You can’t just waive a magic wand and make it happen,” Levitt said. “It’s a whole kind of interlocking set of protections in the Affordable Care Act that helps people with pre-existing conditions.”

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