This week, Republican U.S. Senate candidate-turned CD-4 primary contender Ken Buck released his "plan" for what to do about health care once the historic calamity and grave injustice that is Obamacare (hopefully we hammed that up sufficiently) is repealed. Buck's three-page plan, with large pictures on two pages, doesn't reveal much in the way of a functional replacement for the Affordable Care Act's reforms. In fact, under the section titled "Deregulating the Insurance Market," Buck says one of the biggest changes Obamacare brought to the health insurance system isn't needed at all:
Allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines will increase competition and lower costs. But doing so requires the federal government to repeal coverage mandates that require most plans to offer the same services. Also, repealing the “guaranteed issue” mandate in Obamacare, which forces insurers to provide insurance to anyone regardless of their risk level, would lower premium costs. [Pols emphasis]
This is the nice way of saying exactly what now-U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner bluntly concurs with in the video above: coverage of pre-existing conditions should not be part of health care reform. As a substitute, Buck calls for expansion of state high-risk pools, and suggests individuals buy insurance against "health status changes." High-risk pools are not new, but persistent issues with very high costs and waiting periods make them an unpopular last resort–a problem that needed to be solved by reforming the system.
Polling consistently shows that the ACA's guaranteed issue mandate is one of the most popular, and also least publicly understood, parts of the new law. This despite the same polling consistently showing public discontent with "Obamacare" as a whole:
[R]oughly four in ten adults overall, and about half of the uninsured, are not aware that the law provides financial help to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them purchase coverage, gives states the options of expanding their Medicaid programs, and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Bottom line: flatly rejecting one of Obamacare's most popular provisions won't hurt Buck in his CD-4 primary, which is all about who can out-conservative the pack in front of an unquestioning and deeply radicalized rural Republican base. But with the playing field over the ACA shifting back toward Democrats as a belated, longsuffering, but increasingly undeniable success story begins to emerge, we believe that this blunt rejection of such a basic and popular tenet of reform could seriously harm Cory Gardner–especially if his campaign continues making Obamacare his central campaign issue.
In Gardner's statewide race, that answer just won't be enough.