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Astronomical health insurance rates likely to drive CD3 debate for June 30 primary

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June 2, 2020, 11:53 am

Geographically one of the largest congressional districts in the United States, Colorado’s 3rd, which includes roughly the western two-thirds of Eagle County, stretches from Pueblo in the south to Steamboat Springs in the north and all the way to the Utah border. It also has some of the highest health care and health-insurance costs in the nation.

114_rp_co_3_tipton_scott
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton

CD3 is comprised of all or parts of 29 out of 64 Colorado counties, mostly on the Western Slope, and many of them — like Eagle – have just one insurance provider on the Affordable Care Act individual market. Premiums for a family of four can exceed $2,000 a month.

Since U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, was first elected to represent CD3 in 2010, the number of uninsured nonelderly Americans steadily declined from a high of 46.5 million in 2010 – the year the ACA was approved — to a low in 2016 of 26.7 million. Tipton has unsuccessfully voted numerous times to repeal the law, which is also known as Obamacare.

Since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, partly on a platform of repealing and replacing the ACA, his administration has challenged the law in court and undermined it on multiple fronts. Since then, the rate of uninsured has steadily climbed to 27.9 million in 2018.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump

Now the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that more than 20 million Americans are losing job-based health care during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and up to 2 million uninsured people could be hospitalized for the disease. Trump just this month urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the ACA and its protections for people with preexisting conditions, which could be up to half of all Americans, according to the federal government.

In a CD3 primary preview produced by RealVail.com for Colorado Politics earlier this month, a Tipton campaign spokesman would not address the congressman’s record on health care, particularly as it relates to repeated GOP attempts to repeal the ACA, Medicaid expansion, and the law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Tipton faces a June 30 primary challenge from Republican Rifle restaurant owner Lauren Boebert, who has four boys with her contract natural gas worker husband and has not had health insurance for her family for approximately three years. Boebert supports free-market solutions and being able to cross state lines to get group discounts for health insurance.

Lauren Boebert

“No, it’s not affordable, and that’s something that Tipton promised us that he would go to D.C. and get under control,” Boebert said. “We have some of the highest health insurance rates in the country because of the way the insurance carriers look at risk factors in smaller markets.”

Democrat James Iacino is a Ridgeway resident and the executive chairman and part-owner of the 102-year-old, Denver-based Seattle Fish Co. He edged former Eagle and Routt County state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush by seven votes in the CD3 state assembly in April. He now hopes to repeat that success in the primary, beating out Mitsch Bush, who lost to Tipton by eight points in 2018.

James Iacino

“I hear from people throughout the district that 2,000-plus dollars a month for essentially a silver, high-deductible plan is absolutely not affordable and it’s why people are having to work two or three jobs just to get by,” Iacino said. “They can’t save for retirement. They can’t save for education for their kids, because all of their costs are going to housing and health care.”

Iacino supports a national pubic option.

“That’s something that has not been addressed by Tipton,” Iacino added. “His answer is full deregulation, 100% private markets, slash Medicaid, slash Medicare, and let the market take care of itself, and clearly that has not worked for people. Premiums have gone up over 60% since he’s been in office over the last 10 years and he’s had no plan to help reduce those costs.”

Mitsch Bush says Tipton, who is Trump’s Colorado re-election co-chair, is out of touch with scientific norms on everything from the spread of disease to climate change.

Diane Mitsch Bush
Diane Mitsch Bush

“The other thing where Tipton is missing the boat and if I were your congress person I would have been on day one is that people who lose their jobs lose their health insurance, unless they want to pay COBRA, which is very, very expensive,” Mitsch Bush said. “The first thing to do is make sure that the federal [ACA] exchange and the state exchanges have an open enrollment period that lasts until this curve is flattened. That’s what I would do.”

Boebert, meanwhile, has been making headlines by prematurely opening her Shooters Grill restaurant in Rifle – a Second Amendment hotspot – to in-person dining before the lifting of Garfield County and Colorado COVID-19 restrictions. It remains shuttered as of May 26.

Voters will also be able to choose U.S. Senate candidates on June 30, with former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff challenging former Gov. John Hickenlooper for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

Here’s a press release with the latest information from Eagle County on voting in the June 30 primary election:

June 30 primary includes U.S. Senate, U.S. House, county commissioner races

Colorado’s June 30 State Primary will include party primary races for the United States Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and County Commissioner seats. Eagle County voters have the opportunity to nominate candidates to compete in the November General Election for those seats. 

Some important points are:
-Voters registered as Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or Unaffiliated can participate. -There are currently no other minor party contests for the state primary.
-Unaffiliated voters without a preference will receive both major party ballots, Democrat and Republican, but may only return one. If both ballots are cast, neither will count.
-17 year-olds may be eligible to participate. Voters who are 18 years of age by the November 3, 2020 General Election can vote in the state primary.
-Voters must change or withdraw their affiliation by June 1 if they wish to vote in a different party’s primary election. 
-Ballots will be mailed on June 8. By law, ballots may not be forwarded by the Postal Service.  
-Please ensure your ballot arrives in a timely manner by checking your voter registration mailing address at www.GoVoteColorado.gov.
-Sample ballots and additional election information may be found at eaglecounty.us/clerk. For more information, contact elections@eaglecounty.us.

Voters can update and verify voter registration, register to vote online, or find their Voting Services Polling Center at www.GoVoteColorado.gov.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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