Colorado Senator Cory Gardner stunned colleagues by publicly signing onto a letter opposing the Republican Party's Obamacare repeal bill.
As a Congressman, Cory Gardner emerged in 2011 as one of the leading opponents to the Affordable Care Act
, also known as "Obamacare."
In one interview
, then-Rep. Gardner sharply criticized the healthcare law.
Just a couple weeks ago, despite the president's promise that if you liked your insurance you could keep it, my family received a letter in the mail that our insurance plan is being cancelled -- cancelled because of the president's health care bill. We were paying about $650 a month for our plan. And the plan that's most similar to replace it through our current provider goes up by 100 percent more, so it's from $650 to $1,480."
Opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and a promise to repeal the law helped propel Gardner to defeat sitting-Senator Mark Udall (D) and win a seat in the United States Senate in 2014.
On December 3, 2015, Senator Gardner finally got his chance to make good on his promise. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and helped send the repeal legislation to President Obama’s desk (where it was vetoed).
In May of 2016, Sen. Gardner took to the Senate Floor and began a speech with a declaration:
Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the continued broken promises of Obamacare and the negative impacts this poorly planned law has had on my state of Colorado.”
A month later, Sen. Gardner decried the massive premium increases that were crushing many Coloradans. In the fall, Gardner again took to the floor to speak out against Obamacare.
Today, all that seems to have changed. Senator Cory Gardner now stands opposed to any repeal and replace plan that would cancel coverage for Coloradans utilizing the law’s Medicaid expansion program.
Clearly, a stunning reversal for the man tapped to take over management of the GOP's Senate re-election war chest.
The sticking point for the Senator appears to be the issue of Medicaid expansion, one of the ways that the Affordable Care Act sought to achieve universal coverage.
The law expanded Medicaid - a Federally subsidized healthcare program for low-income and disabled Americans. The law made it available for any individual or family with incomes up to 138% of the Federal poverty level. Through this law, suddenly millions more Americans qualified for Government subsidized healthcare.
While the Federal government paid for this expansion in the early years of its implementation, the expense has slowly been transitioned to the states that chose to participate in the program. Many of these states cannot afford to fund the program at the same level as the Federal government. This has led the Republican Party to deem the program unsustainable and the current Obamacare repeal and replace legislation would phase-out the program.
Roughly 200,000 Coloradans utilize the Medicaid expansion program.
Four Republican Senators recently delivered a letter
to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressing their opposition to any Obamacare repeal bill that reduces Medicaid expansion funding. The letter was signed by Senators Cory Gardner, Rob Portman (OH), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), and Lisa Murkowski (AK).
"We are concerned that any poorly implemented or poorly timed change in the current funding structure in Medicaid could result in a reduction in access to life-saving health care services.
Any changes made to how Medicaid is financed through the state and federal governments should be coupled with significant new flexibility so they can efficiently and effectively manage their Medicaid programs to best meet their own needs… We also believe a gradual transition is needed to ensure states have the time to successfully implement these new changes.”
Gardner is up for re-election in 2020 and will appear on the same ballot as President Donald Trump. The defense of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, coming from one of the law's staunchest opponents, is a political move. Gardner clearly calculates that he will have a hard time winning re-election with Trump’s name above his and will have an even harder time if he votes to repeal Obamacare.
Make no mistake, Cory Gardner is straddling the fence. But ultimately, he is going to have to pick a side. He is going to have to choose whether to appeal to the swing voters on the Left and in the Middle or stick to the conservative base that desperately wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.