Backstab: Stephens Spikes Health Care Exchange?

We’ve been following the strange case of Majority Leader Amy Stephens this session, specifically her decision to sponsor two seemingly at-odds pieces of health care legislation: Senate Bill 200, the bill to implement a health care insurance exchange pursuant to federal health reform passed last year, as well as a “Tea Party” inspired bill that would radically opt Colorado entirely out of the federal health care system in favor of an “interstate compact.”

We, like many others, found the apparent contradictions between the sponsorship of these bills to be interesting, but we were assured by people close to the debate that Stephens was participating in the health care exchange bill in good faith. Stephens herself said as much, and that the health care exchange was a “free market” component of federal health care reform she could support while trying to undermine it out of the other side of her mouth.

Well folks, if a letter we were forwarded today from Stephens to the Democratic co-sponsor of Senate Bill 200, Sen. Betty Boyd is accurate, Stephens’ true colors are revealed:

On this point let me be clear: Obamacare is unconstitutional, and it is bad public policy.  I applaud Attorney General Suthers and his colleagues around the nation for taking the fight to the courts.  I have supported legislation in the past to legislatively opt Colorado from its big government vices.

That brings us back to SB 200, and the fear that the health exchange legislation might be unwittingly used to support the implementation of Obamacare.  There is only one way to solve this problem, and that is to make absolutely sure that the healthcare exchanges are implemented only after the State of Colorado opts-out of Obamacare.  Specifically, I am requesting that the Committee add the following provision to the legislation.  

“The provisions of SB 200 shall not be implemented, nor shall they have force or effect, until the State of Colorado requests, and the federal government grants, a full waiver from all terms, restrictions, and requirements in the federal Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act of 2010, and all rules, regulations and administrative guidelines issued thereto. [Pols emphasis]  The Governor of the State of Colorado shall seek such waiver within 60 days of the enactment of this Act.”

Looks like that cynical voice in the back of our heads was right once again. It really doesn’t matter if it was always Stephens’ (or somebody else’s) plan to spike this bill with a big partisan splash, or if this is in response to the “Tea Party” ambush she experienced last week.

Either way, if we’d been asked to bet money the moment we heard she was involved, this is the outcome we would have bet on. Read the full text below, and tell us if you don’t agree.


March 31, 2011

Dear Senator Boyd:

The discussion surrounding SB 200 (the Health Benefit Exchange) is proof positive that the enactment of Obamacare has set the American debate about healthcare backward by light years.  For years, conservatives at all levels have touted the free market virtues of healthcare exchanges as a way to give private citizens greater purchasing power and greater access to private health insurance.  The concept of individuals banding together to cut the best healthcare deal possible for themselves and their family has been a staple of the House Republican platform for many, many years.

But enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare – has so thoroughly contaminated the public discourse about the nation’s healthcare system that even simple and common-sense ideas like healthcare exchanges have become toxic and fraught with public policy peril.  This is more than a symbolic concern.  Many of my constituents and a few of my colleagues have told me that, while exchanges are themselves sensible public policy, the potential linkage of this legislation to Obamacare is far more damaging than whatever benefit is derived from the bill.  Some have worried that, even though the exchanges created in my bill are totally independent of Obamacare, that future legislators or Governors (or even the federal government) could hijack this local control measure to implement Obamacare.  It is not in the plain language of the bill, but after all the over-reaches that government has engaged in of late, it is an issue that I want to settle in this legislation in the clearest possible terms.

On this point let me be clear: Obamacare is unconstitutional, and it is bad public policy.  I applaud Attorney General Suthers and his colleagues around the nation for taking the fight to the courts.  I have supported legislation in the past to legislatively opt Colorado from its big government vices.

That brings us back to SB 200, and the fear that the health exchange legislation might be unwittingly used to support the implementation of Obamacare.  There is only one way to solve this problem, and that is to make absolutely sure that the healthcare exchanges are implemented only after the State of Colorado opts-out of Obamacare.  Specifically, I am requesting that the Committee add the following provision to the legislation.  

“The provisions of SB 200 shall not be implemented, nor shall they have force or effect, until the State of Colorado requests, and the federal government grants, a full waiver from all terms, restrictions, and requirements in the federal Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act of 2010, and all rules, regulations and administrative guidelines issued thereto.  The Governor of the State of Colorado shall seek such waiver within 60 days of the enactment of this Act.”

In as much as I believe that healthcare exchanges are a good idea, in order to be a good representative of my district, I must ensure that these state exchanges are not hijacked for the unconstitutional purposes of implementing the federal healthcare legislation.

With this amendment, Colorado would become one of the first states in the nation to take-up President Obama on his recent offer to allow States to opt-out of his healthcare bill.  For his part, Governor Hickenlooper expressed openness to the idea of an opt-out.  In exchange for the bold step of opting out of Obamacare, the State of Colorado will have healthcare exchanges that help patients get and receive affordable and reliable healthcare.  It is a win-win for the State of Colorado.

I strongly encourage the Committee to accept the above language.  If the Committee chooses not to add this important provision and still forwards the bill to the House, I will work all of the votes in my caucus to ensure that the Obamacare opt-out provision is added in the House of Representatives prior to returning to the Senate.

I continue to believe that healthcare exchanges are a common sense policy, just as conservatives have advocated for many, many years.  And with the addition of the above provision, they can be implemented into law without federal intrusion, instruction or interference.

Thank you for your consideration.

House Majority Leader Amy Stephens

###

21 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    What a goddamn joke. OF COURSE this was always going to be the outcome.

    According to Tim Hoover at the PTSNBN, Hickenlooper is finally pissed off. Good.

    http://blogs.denverpost.com/th

    The news that House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, was offering the new language brought a sharp response from Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose office has been closely involved in months of negotiations over the legislation, Senate Bill 200. Administration sources privately said the governor was fuming over the development.

    “We’ve heard loud and clear from individuals and small businesses that they want Colorado to move forward on creation of a health care exchange,” Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said in a statement. “What is the alternative? We sit on our hands and do nothing? It would be a shame if this common-sense legislation is derailed by politics.”

    I’m not mad that Stephens is backstabbing health care, even after Colorado voters rejected Amendment 63 just last year. I’m mad that Democrats didn’t know full fucking well that this is what would happen. We should have known better.

    THEY ARE NOT HONEST. THEY ARE NOT OUR FRIENDS.

  2. ArapaGOPArapaGOP says:

    It’s impossible for readers of a Democrat blog to understand this, but Rep. Stephens is not a Democrat and has no need to accommodate any part of your agenda. I frankly never understand what she was doing getting involved with Obamacare in any form, and I’m relieved to see she is backing away from that.

    Please stop posting that ridiculous animation too, unless there’s about to be a new law allowing sixth graders to vote. That’s the level you’re on.

  3. abraham says:

    Don’t I remember reading news accounts that the business community had pretty much all come on board with this bill on the grounds that an exchange – whether part of federal changes or not – would enhance the  market by allowing consumers and companies to interact in a more efficient manner?

    So, if I understand the letter, she reneged on her commitment to the business community in a frightened attempt to dodge Tea Party hysteria and to secure a couple of Republican votes in the Senate.  If true, she failed miserably – I understand none of the Republican Senators voted for the bill, the business community testified in support and got blindsided by her letter, and she will still get a primary from the Tea Party.  Plus, she had to have lost a lot of credibility with the Governor by reneging on her commitments to Boyd.

    And we’re only half way through the session?

    • Ralphie says:

      She’s still the Majority Leader.

      The key word there is “majority.”

      You know what to do…

  4. The Bob Hatter says:

    I know a couple of people considering it. Some are actually good candidates, some not so much

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