Times sees Colorado disappointment over health reform as emblematic

In a front-page story that positions Colorado as representative, the New York Times today reports that voters here “crave reform of health care and Congress.” Of course we do. The health-reform debate was ugly and preposterous and shot through with distortions and lies. Corporate interests steered the discussion and shaped the legislation. Sharp Colorado voters– Democrats, Republicans and independents– saw all of that and expressed it in colorful language to the times. Choice bits after the jump.

<em>Pres. Obama in Grand Junction Aug. 15 (YouTube)</em>
Pres. Obama in Grand Junction Aug. 15 (YouTube)

About 800,000 Colorado residents, representing one-sixth of the state’s population, are uninsured. The state’s politics are mixed and somewhat unpredictable. Colorado has a sizable contingent of people who want a single-payer government-financed health care system, as well as libertarians and Tea Party protesters opposed to big government.

Few of those interviewed here expect to see direct benefits from the legislation. Many complained of sweetheart deals done to win votes in the Senate. Liberals and conservatives alike said Congress was too influenced by special interests.

Ron Vaughn, who provides health insurance to his 60 employees at Argonaut Wine and Liquor near the state Capitol, said: “I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. I want the Democrats out of my pocket and Republicans out of my bedroom. The one word I would use for what’s going on in Washington is embarrassing. I am embarrassed for Republicans and for Democrats. They started out on the right foot, but it’s degenerated.

“Republicans misled people and tried to scare seniors by putting out misinformation about death panels,” Mr. Vaughn said. “Then to pass a bill in the Senate, Democrats stooped to bartering for votes. It demeans the whole process.”

Richard F. Barkey, a former chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Party and a leader of the advocacy group Health Care for All Colorado, said: “We had huge expectations for President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. But they could not build a dam big enough to stop the flood of money from corporate interests that have influenced the health care debate.”

Brandon C. Shaffer, a Democrat who is president of the Colorado Senate, said, “It’s amazing to me how the insurance industry lobby has shaped the debate in Washington.”

That sentiment was echoed on the other side of the political divide.

“Congress and this administration don’t listen to us anymore,” said Lesley A. Hollywood, a Republican and member of the Northern Colorado Tea Party group. “They are catering to special interests, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies.”

Federal lawmakers are now working to join the House and Senate versions of the bill. As the Times points out, the President hopes the final bill “guarantees access to insurance, outlaws the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and subsidizes premiums for many low- and middle-income people.”

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