Colorado Public News: House Passes Health Care Repeal 245-189

January 20, 2011
In The News

By Ann Imse

The U.S. House of Representatives approved repeal of last year's healthcare reform law by a vote of 245-189, led by its new Republican majority.

However, repeal is expected to fail in the Senate.

The state's four Republican members of Congress said they were voting for repeal and the three Democrats said they were voting to keep the law.

The state's divided delegation can't even agree on what the law is likely to do as it is phased in over years.

Republicans call the law "job-killing" and too expensive.

Democrats say it creates jobs, especially in healthcare. And they say repealwould add to the deficit.

Republicans Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, Mike Coffman of suburban Denver, Cory Gardner of northeastern Colorado and Scott Tipton from Western Colorado all say requiring Americans to buy health insurance is unconstitutional. Democrats say it is legal. The Supreme Court is expected to decide.

The sharpest disagreement over the effect of the law is financial. Democrats like Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, cite a study by the Congressional Budget Office, which says repeal will increase the deficit by $230 billion.

Republicans like Doug Lamborn reject the CBO estimate, even though the budget office is non-partisan and typically respected.

"It's not based on honest accounting," said Lamborn. For example, he said it doesn't address a shortage of funding for doctors treating patients on Medicaid, the government health program for the poor.

Coffman was the most willing to find common ground on intent, if not on whatshould be done.

"I don't think there's a single member who doesn't believe we need fairly dramatic reform of our healthcare system, that it is not working, that we need to expand access, that we need to lower costs. The system is too expensive and it excludes too many," Coffman said. "With that said, I don't think we're going on the right path."

He objects to the requirement that Americans buy insurance. He also is concerned with cuts to Medicare Advantage to pay for the changes.

But Democrat Ed Perlmutter of suburban Denver said repeal is too extreme for a law with numerous guarantees for Americans. "There's freedom from discrimination against people with prior illnesses. There's freedom from cancellation just because you get sick. There's freedom to move from job to job without losing your insurance. And just those three alone are reason not to repeal the thing."

DeGette said provisions beginning to take effect now help families. "They're able to enroll the kids up to age 26 now on their insurance policies. People can't be excluded from coverage because of pre-existing conditions. No longer can insurance companies discriminate against women on the basis of gender. And seniors are actually beginning to see some relief from theirprescription drug prices in the donut hole."

New Republicans Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton are concerned with bureaucracy.

"I've heard it will take 24 to 28 new agencies," said Tipton.

Gardner held up a complex organization chart covered with small circles and lines, produced by Republicans.

"I'm showing you a chart showing just how confusing it's going to be if you have the flu and you want to go see your doctor," Gardner said. "This is the new process that the health care bill is going to go through." Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder also cited the protection for people with pre-existing conditions, which so far affects only children. He also praised a change that will allow people to gradually wean off Medicaid, the government health insurance for the poorest Americans. Now, low-paid workers don't dare take a raise for fear of losing their health insurance, he said. A new AP-Gfk poll found the number of Americans who want the bill repealed has dropped from 32 percent to 26 percent. Even among Republicans, support for repeal has fallen from 61 percent to 49 percent since November. A Washington Post poll found 32 percent favor full repeal of the entire law. Opposition polls stronger than repeal, with 50 percent opposed and 45 percent supporting the law, unchanged since August 2009.

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