Colorado Reacts to Health Law Decision

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4min 25sec

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the federal health care law, what does that mean for Colorado? CPR Health Reporter Eric Whitney has this look.

This is a transcript of his report.

Reporter: For Montrose resident Lynn Carretta, the court’s decision upholding the law is great news.

Carretta: For those of us who’ve been uninsurable, it’s huge. I feel like a weight’s being lifted off of my shoulders.

Reporter : Carretta calls herself “uninsurable” because she’s got a pre-existing condition. That meant insurance companies could deny her coverage, or charge her a lot more because of her higher risk. Now, the federal health care law says no more outright denials, and there will be subsidies to help Carretta pay for coverage.

But where Carretta sees cause for celebration, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers sees a tremendous loss.

Suthers: I’m quite certain that our founders are spinning quite quickly in their graves today, that’s not something they had in mind when they set up the enumerated powers of the federal government.

Reporter: It’s those enumerated powers that caused Suthers to join Colorado to the lawsuit against the federal health care law. He doesn’t believe the Constitution grants Congress the ability to tell Americans they have to buy something. Now that the Supreme Court has disagreed, Suthers says the time for courtroom battles is over.

Suthers: The only remedy is in the political arena, to get a new president, perhaps get a new United States Senate. I guarantee you that will be the focus of this election over the next several months.

Reporter: The court did give states the ability to reject one part of the federal health law – its expansion of Medicaid health coverage for the poor.

The law would add an estimated one hundred thousand Coloradans to the state’s medicaid rolls. The federal government would pay for most of it, but the state would have to pick up a share. Yesterday Governor John Hickenlooper said he’s not sure yet how much Colorado should expand.

Hickenlooper: Well, we’ll see. We’re certainly looking at that, we’re probably a little bit premature, but we’re certainly looking at it and trying to figure out a way we can do that and still live within our means.

Reporter: The Governor’s measured response contrasts with that of health care consumer advocate Dee Dee de Percin.

De Percin: Of course we’re incredibly excited.

Reporter: de Percin is head of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative,a coalition of groups advocating for access to health care. She says the law is good for people.

de Percin : this means access to coverage and care for so many Americans across the united states and here in Colorado. So it really is a game changer for the economic stability and security of families, of individuals, of communities and businesses within the state.

Reporter: It’s estimated that half-a-million Coloradans who don’t have insurance now, will get it as a result of the Court upholding the law. Up to a hundred thousand could be added to Medicaid, and about four hundred thousand will be eligible for new subsidies to help them buy private coverage, starting in 2014.

The only place people can use those subsidies is in new health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges. Each state is supposed to set up its own exchange by the end of 2013. And that’s no small feat.

Lueck: I think that the smart money would be on Colorado I think, in terms of making this thing happen.

Reporter: Michelle Lueck is president and CEO of the non-partisan Colorado Health Institute. She says Colorado has a better shot at having functioning health insurance exchange by deadline than most states

Lueck: As we look at Colorado compared to other states, we’re more concerned about that in other states than we are in Colorado. Because the enabling legislation was bi-partisan, a lot of business community support, a lot of conservative support of the enabling legislation and the sanctioning of the exchange.

Reporter: That’s not to say that all conservatives have been fully onboard. Bob Gardner is a Republican state representative from Colorado Springs. He chairs a committee that oversees Colorado’s exchange and says bi-partisan support for it going forward is not a given.

Gardner: I need to analyze from Thursday’s decision, can we continue on the course that we have to date, which is to implement a health benefit exchange that was, frankly, relatively free of the federal requirements and regulations?

Reporter: But if Colorado sets up an exchange that doesn’t meet federal requirements, the law gives Washington the right to set up a one-size fits all exchange for the state, and for any other that fails to meet its deadlines. Gardner hopes it doesn’t come to that.

Gardner: Given the court’s decision, we’re going to have to do something. And that something needs to be a Colorado solution, and I have to analyze, can that be done?

Reporter: The topic has hardly been laid to rest. Now that the court has ruled, the issue will be a huge component of November election campaigns, as Democrats seek to preserve the law by getting Obama reelected, and Republicans gun for votes on the grounds the law needs now needs to be repealed.

[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]