Hundreds of Coloradans fearful over losing their health insurance in the face of the Republican Obamacare replacement plan filled the gym of Denver’s West High School last night for a meeting with Democratic state lawmakers.
The event, billed as a town hall on transparent and affordable health care, offered attendees a chance to hear from Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and state Representatives Daneya Esgar, Susan Lontine and Janet Buckner.
The main concern, Duran told the audience, was: “How do we do the best job that we possibly can at the state level to make sure that people have access to healthcare, and that we protect the most vulnerable?”
Under the Republican proposal, the Medicaid expansion program will expire in 2020, a move numerous health care and public policy experts say would leave millions uninsured nationwide. Experts say the plan will also increase premiums and reduce subsidies, particularly for elderly and low-income Americans.
As The Colorado Independent reported Thursday, an analysis from the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) estimates that if Medicaid were rolled back next year, Colorado would need to find $780 million to continue covering the current expansion population.
Lawmakers last night described statewide legislation in the works to protect Coloradans, such as a bill to allow residents to receive a yearly supply of contraception at once and to require annual cost and expenditure reports from hospitals, in order to increase transparency.
They also celebrated the defeat of bills they deemed problematic, such as the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which would have significantly increased regulations on abortion providers, as well as an attempt to ban virtually all abortions and emergency contraception prescriptions statewide.
Several audience members shared their stories of living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, of losing loved ones to diseases like cancer and of having their life savings decimated by exorbitant healthcare costs.
The majority of questions from constituents focused on concerns about losing coverage, increased insurance premiums and what will happen to people with preexisting conditions. Lawmakers said that as the Republican proposal stands, patients will not be excluded from coverage due to preexisting conditions, but there are concerns about how the measure will be funded.
One woman asked how Colorado could protect those with chronic illnesses from losing their coverage under the new proposal. Lt. Gov. Lynne offered assurance that the state will offer assistance, even if the federal government does not. The state, Lynne told the crowd, “will work with our insurance department to make sure that we cover preexisting conditions.”
Duran called for collaboration and focus at the state level, and told those present “to put pressure on Washington, D.C., to make sure our families and hard-working Coloradans don’t lose their care.”
Photo by Kelsey Ray, The Colorado Independent