UPDATE #3: Stokols—Amy Stephens stoutly defended the health insurance exchange from fellow Republican detractors before departing today's hearing; the final vote on House Bill 14-1192 has been postponed until Stephens can be present to vote.
[As Rep. Janak] Joshi presented the bill, Stephens fired away with tough questions and offered a full-throated defense of the bill that created the state’s own health insurance exchange.
“How can we in this climate, in this reality actually [repeal the exchange] when this is the law of the land?” Stephens asked Joshi, noting that repealing the state exchange would just force Coloradans, still subject to Obamacare mandates, to use the federal healthcare marketplace instead.
In 2011, Stephens sponsored Senate Bill 200, which created the exchange, based on her belief that a state-specific exchange would be preferable to the federal marketplace.
“Do the right thing for the people,” one witness testifying in support of Joshi’s bill told Stephens.
“I believe I did,” she responded. [Pols emphasis]
UPDATE #2: FOX 31's Eli Stokols–will Amy Stephens escape a vote on the "Amycare" repeal bill after all?
Democrats, who have poked Stephens repeatedly on this issue, are eagerly awaiting this bit of political theater.
There’s just one thing: Stephens may not be there when the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee votes on Joshi’s bill Tuesday afternoon.
She was excused from being at the Capitol Tuesday morning, according to House GOP spokesman Joel Malecka, in order to prepare for a Denver Post debate Tuesday night featuring all the GOP U.S. Senate candidates.
Malecka told FOX31 Denver that Stephens is planning to attend the committee meeting, which begins at 1:30 p.m., but that she is also planning to leave around 3 p.m.
Surely there's a way to move it up?
UPDATE: A press release moments ago from health care reform advocate group Protect Your Care slams today's repeal attempt:
The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Joshi (R-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Lundberg (R-Longmont). State Representative Amy Stephens (R-Monument), House sponsor of the 2011 bill setting up Colorado’s exchange, is on the committee hearing the repeal bill.
“This bill makes no sense and hurts Colorado families. Thousands of Coloradans who didn’t have health care before now do thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and the sign-up rate is increasing,” said Laura Chapin, Colorado State Director for Protect Your Care. “Instead of sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, these legislators should be helping their constituents to #GetCovered and get access to health care by the end of open enrollment on March.”
Between October 1, 2013, and February 17, 2014, nearly 208,000 Coloradans have signed up or been approved for health coverage, according to new data from Connect for Health Colorado and the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Furthermore, new numbers from the federal Department of Health and Human Services show Coloradans continue to enroll in health insurance at an accelerating clip and ahead of the national average. Colorado is at 120% of its target enrollment for February 1, and nationally the Affordable Care Act is at 75% of target enrollment.
As the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports:
Defense of a key pillar to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is a position most Republicans would much rather avoid — especially in an election year.
But between now and June 24, it's sure to be a common occurrence for state Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, as she competes to win the party's U.S. Senate nomination.
Stephens was the sponsor of a 2011 measure that created the state's health insurance exchange — now known as Connect for Health Colorado — and on Tuesday she faces defending her bill as her Republican colleagues look to repeal the law.
Supporters of the Connect for Health Colorado insurance marketplace, which now includes many thousands of Colorado citizens who have obtained both private and Medicaid insurance coverage through the system, are expected to mount a credible for-the-record defense of the system before House Bill 14-1192 meets its demise today in the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee. Sponsoring today's exchange repeal bill in the House are most of the members we affectionately call the "clown car caucus"–Reps. Janak Joshi, Lori Saine, Steve Humphrey, Perry Buck, Justin Everett, Chris Holbert, Dan Nordberg, Jerry Sonnenberg, Jim Wilson, and Jared Wright.
As Lee notes, one of the GOP minority members of the committee set to kill this bill today is U.S. Senate candidate Amy Stephens–whose unsteady role in the 2011 passage of the legislation creating the insurance marketplace now known as "Amycare" has hobbled her bid for higher office. We're just speculating, but it's a pretty safe bet that none of the aforementioned sponsors of this bill will be supporting Stephens in her primary.
On Monday, Stephens said she is "leaning toward voting no" on the repeal effort, and said the choice is either the state-run exchange or the federally run marketplace.
"Leaning toward voting no?" If that's an indicator as to how vigorously Rep. Stephens plans to defend her signature legislative achievement in today's hearing, members of both parties could combine to make this a difficult afternoon for her. Politically, Stephens has little to gain by abandoning the "Amycare" marketplace, which won't win her back any lost supporters on the far right. In the unlikely event Stephens survives the primary, "Amycare" could become an asset if she isn't forced to jettison it first. As a Republican primary candidate, though, Stephens appears to be trying to skate by on a false distinction between the Colorado health insurance exchange and the hated "Obamacare" federal health care reform law that underpins it.
To which we (and her primary opponents) can only say again, good luck with that.