Senate hopeful Amy Stephens half-defends “AmyCare”

After much speculation, Republican state representative and U.S. Senate hopeful Amy Stephens half-defended her support of the Colorado health care exchange today when a measure to repeal the exchange came before a House committee on which she sits.

Stephens said that the state’s exchange — dubbed by some as “AmyCare” because the Republican from Monument sponsored the legislation to establish it — has protected Coloradans from the federal exchange, which she deems as far worse.

“You either get choice A or B. With choice A, you get a state exchange. With choice B, you get a federal exchange,” she said in a hearing today of the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee.

Stephens went on to quote information from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank, which found that Colorado’s exchange saved individual clients between 25 and 30 percent on their premiums.

Opponents of the bill — conservatives who might otherwise fall into Stephens’s base of campaign backers — were not convinced.

“Stand up, do the right thing for Colorado,” said insurance broker Scott Rankin, directly challenging Stephens during his testimony in favor of a repeal proposed by Rep. Janak Joshi, a Republican from Colorado Springs.

“Thank you, I believe I did,” replied Stephens, cracking a big smile.

Very shortly thereafter, she walked out of the committee before members were scheduled to cast their votes on the repeal bill.

Stephens was under intense scrutiny after having planned to skip the contentious health care exchange vote to prepare for a Republican Senatorial debate being sponsored tonight by The Denver Post.

Casting a vote presented a whopping political quagmire for Stephens. If she voted to repeal the exchange, she would risk looking like a flip-flopper. Voting against the repeal could alienate the Tea Party base Stephens, from Monument, shares with the Rep. Joshi, the bill’s arch-conservative sponsor.

Earlier in the day, as reporters circled with their notebooks, Stephens appeared to take a third option — not showing up.

Stephens was absent from the House floor this morning, raising a hubbub when FOX31’s Eli Stokols reported that she had been excused to prepare for tonight’s debate. Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino said that’s not what he heard when he excused Stephens from the floor.

“I was an informed by an aide that she was running late,” Ferrandino told Stokols. “That’s why I excused her. Had I known that she was really running for office, I would never have excused her.”

Stephens’ plan of skipping floor activities and sitting out today’s committee vote didn’t pan out. After she made her statement defending her “AmyCare” legislation and left the hearing without voting, the Democratically controlled committee delayed the vote until the committee meets again on Friday so that she will have to go on record.

[Photo by Fibonacci Blue]


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