Yesterday, House Bill 14-1192 was introduced and assigned to the House Public Health Care and Human Services and Health, Insurance, and Environment Committees:
In 2010, pursuant to the enactment of federal law that allowed each state to establish a health benefit exchange option through state law or opt to participate in a national exchange, the general assembly enacted the "Colorado Health Benefit Exchange Act" (act). The act created the state exchange, a board of directors (board) to implement the exchange, and a legislative health benefits exchange implementation review committee to make recommendations to the board. The bill repeals the act, effective January 1, 2015. The bill requires the state treasurer to transfer any unencumbered moneys that remain in the exchange to the general fund.
And there you have it–legislation introduced to repeal the Colorado health insurance exchange, known as "Amycare" for the role of GOP Rep. Amy Stephens, now a candidate in the crowded 2014 GOP U.S. Senate primary in its passage back in 2011. House Bill 14-1192 is sponsored by Reps. Janak Joshi, Lori Saine, Steve Humphrey, Perry Buck, Justin Everett, Chris Holbert, Dan Nordberg, Jerry Sonnenberg, James Wilson, and Jared Wright. In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Sens. Kevin Lundberg, Ted Harvey, Kevin Grantham, Owen Hill, Vicki Marble, Randy Baumgardner, Kent Lambert, and Scott Renfroe.
Earlier this week, we posted video of comments by Sen. Greg Brophy at a gubernatorial candidate forum last week, similarly advocating for the repeal of the state health insurance exchange, and strongly implying that supporters of the exchange are not 'acceptable' conservative candidates. Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post caught up with Rep. Stephens for a response:
Stephens said she handily won a tough state House primary two years ago because her El Paso County district appreciated that she took leadership on the health-care issue when President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress “shoved Obamacare” on the country. Stephens, who was the House majority leader at the time, said the business community came to her and asked that she help develop something “pro-market and close to home that we can control.”
“Amy cares,” has been Stephens’ response to the nickname.
And in a recent story about the issue cropping up on the Senate campaign trail, Stephens noted the Colorado health-care exchange was the “lesser of two evils.” The other choice was the federal government operating it.
On this point, Rep. Stephens is absolutely right–if the Connect for Health Colorado exchange were shut down, Coloradans seeking insurance would simply be sent to the federal health exchange website. And it's true that when the exchanges first rolled out last October, the state exchange site worked somewhat better–and was brought up to full capability faster–than the federal site. In short, repealing "Amycare," as many of Stephens' fellow Republican lawmakers want, would leave the state in what any conservative must find a less desirable situation.
In Stephens' case, what could have been an asset, should she survive her increasingly cutthroat primary, is sullied by her repeated attempts to redeem herself with the Republican base. During the debate over the exchange bill, Stephens tried under pressure to insert a "poison pill" amendment that would have stopped the exchange unless the state sought exemption from the ACA. She backtracked after everyone, from the Republican-aligned business interests supporting the bill to Gov. John Hickenlooper, came down on her like a ton of bricks.
Taking a step back, the red-on-red fight over "Amycare" is another example of why Republicans, including Stephens, are just plain screwed now that the Affordable Care Act's many pieces are settling into place. There is no way that Republicans, even if they were to win at every level this November, can "repeal Obamacare." Repeal attempts local and federal this year will fail, and Republicans can't kill the ACA even if they hold the U.S. House and take the Senate because President Obama will still be President. In the meantime, millions of Americans are obtaining new insurance via the exchanges, many with subsidies that can't be taken away now without enormous disruption. This is why Republicans were "desperate" enough to shut down the federal government last October in a last-ditch attempt to stop the law from going into full effect. They knew it was their last chance.
Unfortunately for Stephens, hating on Obamacare is still worth more to most Republicans than she is.