Colorado politicians react to Obama health care address to Congress

President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on health care reform Wednesday night. (Screencap/
President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on health care reform (Screencap/

The reviews of President Barack Obama’s health care speech are coming in from Colorado elected officials and political leaders. We will post them here as they arrive.

Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, “applauding” the president’s address:

“Skyrocketing health care costs are breaking the budgets of hard-working families, small businesses and states. Too many Coloradans are one illness away from bankruptcy. President Obama is right: the status quo is unacceptable. Fixing our economy requires responsible, moderate reform that will provide security and stability for those who have health care and access to affordable insurance for those who do not.

“I applaud the President for his vision and commitment to finding bipartisan solutions, to building on what works and to fixing what’s broken rather than starting over. In Colorado, we’ve taken a number of steps to control costs, improve quality and ensure access for all. We’ve invested in health information technology, supported delivery system reforms to improve quality and contain costs, and covered thousands of uninsured Coloradans. Now we need our federal partners to do their part by passing comprehensive health reform.

“Cost containment must be at the heart of health reform. We must focus on delivering better value for every health care dollar spent. Governors understand this challenge because health care is such a significant part of our state budgets. In Colorado, Medicaid enrollment is at an all-time high. Nearly 500,000 Coloradans are now on Medicaid, up 20 percent from a year ago and accounting for more than 20 percent of the state’s budget. We must build a more sustainable system.

“While the cynics in Washington have resorted to scare tactics and partisan game-playing just to score political points, I am proud to stand with President Obama to keep fighting for responsible reform and serious solutions.”

Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, issued this statement following the president’s address:

“Over the last month, we’ve watched the debate over health insurance reform get off-track thanks to special interests that benefit from the broken insurance system we have now. In his speech today, President Obama dispelled the myths and misunderstandings that have been swirling around this issue. And he brought back into focus how important it is to all Americans that we reform our broken health insurance system.

“Our economy and the health of hardworking Coloradans can’t wait for health insurance reform – we must act now. Today, millions of middle class Americans are one accident away from bankruptcy – Americans who currently have coverage. That’s unacceptable. Skyrocketing health care costs account for nearly 20 percent of our gross domestic product, and they’re the number one driver of our ballooning federal deficit. That’s not sustainable.

“Health insurance reform can’t leave any American behind – this means we must ensure there are strong provisions to improve access to quality care in rural areas. It means we must strengthen Medicare by preserving benefits, lowering drug costs, and cutting down on inefficiency, waste, and fraud. And it means we must provide choice, stability and security for those who have insurance. We must see to it that insurance companies can’t ever break their promises to consumers or drop their coverage unexpectedly – especially not when they’re sick.

“We’ve entered a new phase of the debate marked by this historic speech. My colleagues and I are more determined than ever to put the best ideas – from Democrats and Republicans – on the table so we can pass a meaningful health insurance reform bill that lowers costs and improves coverage for Coloradans and all Americans. The time to act is now.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, released this statement following the president’s address:

“Tonight, President Obama reminded us of exactly what is at stake in the health care debate and of why we owe it to the American people to enact reform that makes a meaningful departure from a status quo that isn’t working for families and small businesses.

“In my travels across the state, I heard story after story of people who simply can’t sustain another decade of soaring health care costs that are crushing working families and small businesses, crippling our economy and driving our country further into debt.”

“While some of us may disagree on the right prescription for reform, we all need to recognize that the status quo is unacceptable – for working families, for small businesses, and for our economy – and that the need for change is now.”

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat representing Colorado’s 1st Congressional District, released the following statement in response to the health care address. DeGette is vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

“President Obama clearly laid out the way forward in reforming our nation’s health insurance system. The President and Congress are working together on a plan that will bring security and stability to millions of Americans who have insurance today, and affordable coverage to those who do not. Doing nothing is simply not an option.

“As President Obama has called for, our plan builds upon the parts of our health care system that do well while reforming the parts that are broken. Skyrocketing costs and the lack of competition in our insurance market have put us in an unsustainable position. I agree with the President that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. The best way to achieve this is by offering a strong public option that will not only bring down rising costs, but will also ensure competition and transparency among private companies within the insurance Exchange. No one will be forced into the public option, but they will have that choice as an affordable alternative.”

Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican representing Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, released the following statement in response to the president’s address:

“The President has already given 27 speeches entirely on health care and another 92 in which health care was a prominent theme. This is also Obama’s sixth prime time appearance in eight months, surpassing the records of all other presidents. Americans don’t need another speech from the President on health care, they need a different plan.”

“The President’s speech was intended to assert his leadership on the Democrats’ sputtering agenda. Something he should have done months ago. The President has been doing a lot of talking, now we will see if he’s been listening to the American people.”

“I heard loud and clear from my constituents this August that the current Democrat proposals are unacceptable – they won’t help reduce costs and they’ll kill millions of small business jobs. Americans don’t want the creation of a government run insurance plan that will lead to the takeover of the health care economy, paid for by almost a trillion dollars in new taxes – regardless of the President’s rhetoric.”

A spokesman for Rep. Betsy Markey, a Democrat representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, sent this statement after the president’s address:

“Congresswoman Markey appreciated hearing from the President on federal health care reform, and she agrees with him that the time for reform is now. She learned more by spending a month talking to thousands of Coloradans all across her district about their questions, concerns and thoughts on health care reform, and hearing hundreds of personal stories about their own experiences with health care in America.”

Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, issued this statement in response to the president’s address:

“I’m glad that President Obama chose to address Congress tonight. Health care reform is an incredibly complex issue, and we all benefit by having the President of the United States lay out his vision for reform.

“I believe he succeeded in outlining how he would like to move forward with reform, and I support much of that vision. I agree that health care reform is a critical issue facing our nation. We cannot afford to continue down our current path or more Americans will find themselves without health insurance and the costs will increase for everyone.

“As I have stated before, I will support a public option if that is included in the final bill before Congress. We must act prudently and with sound judgment and bring forward a bill that can get enough votes to succeed. This is not an issue we can afford to fail on. I believe this issue is too important to our nation to issue ridiculous ultimatums and hide behind extreme political rhetoric. It is time for us to pass health care reform.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican representing Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, issued the following response to the president’s speech:

“What the American people need is a new plan, not new rhetoric. The President tried to repackage his plan tonight, but what he doesn’t realize is that the package isn’t the problem – it’s what is inside that’s the problem. He didn’t say anything tonight that will get me to support a government takeover of health care in this country.

“House Republicans have a plan, H.R. 3400 Empowering Patients First Act, which provides refundable tax credits for health insurance costs to low-income individuals. Additionally, this plan allows for improvements in the individual market by pooling mechanisms and opens opportunities for individuals to shop for insurance across state lines. By giving choice and portability, this bill addresses many of the problems currently facing our health care system without government intrusion.

The American people need health care reform, but what the Democrats’ plan proposes is a government takeover of the entire health care industry that will force Americans out of their own plans, and will have a tremendous cost that can only result in higher taxes and a larger deficit.”

Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat representing Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, released this statement in response to the president’s address:

President Obama gave a great speech, making the case for health care reform from the heart and from the pocketbook. He called on Americans to recognize good ideas regardless of whether they originate on the left or the right, and to pass a bill that will benefit us all. President Obama “closed the deal” with many undecided Americans and undecided members of Congress on health care reform tonight.

Pat Waak, chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party, issued this statement in response to the president’s address:

“Tonight, President Obama made an overwhelming and compelling case to the American people about the need to pass health insurance reform this year.

“The core of his plan is simple: provide more security and stability for people who have insurance, provide quality, affordable care to those who don’t, and rein in skyrocketing costs that are crushing American families, businesses and the government itself.

“The President’s plan will protect Coloradans from unfair insurance industry practices. It’ll prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against someone for a preexisting condition and it’ll stop them from dropping someone’s coverage when they get sick and need help the most.

“Too many of Colorado’s residents and small businesses are struggling under the high costs of care. Reform will bring down costs, by creating a Health Insurance Exchange – a kind of one stop shop for health plans. It’ll also provide new tax credits to help people buy insurance and create a public insurance option to increase competition, lower costs and expand choice. What’s more, the President’s plan won’t add to our deficit – it’ll pay for reform upfront – and it takes the best from Democratic and Republican ideas.

“We are closer than ever to passing comprehensive reform and President Obama has laid out a clear path forward. Unfortunately, Republicans in Colorado have decided to stand in lock-step opposition to reform. They want to maintain the status quo and hurt President Obama politically. Opponents of reform have a choice. They can either stop playing partisan games and come up with their own reform proposal, or they can start explaining to the American people why it’s better to stand by and do nothing at all as thousands more Coloradans face skyrocketing costs and lose their coverage every day. Being the Party of No on health insurance reform just won’t cut it.”

“Democrats in Colorado support President Obama’s plan for health insurance reform. The time for action is now.”

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat representing Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, released this statement after the president’s speech:

“I applaud the President tonight for the way in which he spoke to Congress and more importantly the American people. Our health care system is broken and unsustainable. Over the district work period I met with many of my constituents in government in the grocery meetings, telephone town halls and meetings with small and large businesses. Everyone had a story to tell and for most of them the current system is not working.

This issue touches each one of us personally. I have a daughter with epilepsy and she has this condition through no fault of her own. But under our current system she is discriminated against and so are millions of others who have prior illnesses. They are pushed aside and that’s the way it is. This is immoral and probably unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment in which we are all assured equal protection.

Furthermore, I believe we need a public option to help small businesses thrive and provide an option for those who can’t afford private insurance. This will help us all by promoting competition and keeping costs down.

I look forward to working with the Obama Administration and my colleagues in Congress to work toward a solution to creating a fair and affordable health care system.”

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