DENVER (AP) — Colorado lawmakers moved forward Thursday with an $18 million federal grant application to set up an insurance marketplace required under the new health care law.
Lawmakers voted 9-1 to apply for the grant on an issue that divides Democrats who advocate for the new health care law and Republicans who want to see it repealed.
The Colorado Health Benefit Exchange creates a virtual marketplace to allow individuals and groups the ability to purchase health insurance at discounts that those in larger risk pools have. State lawmakers approved the insurance exchange earlier this year with bipartisan support, but Republicans were torn on the issue and have been criticized by constituents who see the legislation as an affirmation of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers overseeing the implementation of the insurance exchange were gridlocked in September on a grant application that at the time would be for $22 million. Republican Rep. Bob Gardner disagreed with the previous grant proposal but said he favored this one because it gives Colorado more flexibility over how to implement the exchanges and it’s a grant for less money.
Gardner said the grant process to set up an insurance exchange posed a dilemma for Republicans.
“The federal government says I have to do one. If I don’t do it they’ll do it for me. The people of Colorado will have little or no input into that,” he said. Gardner said the other option is to proceed while having more control over how the exchanges are implemented with language in the grant proposal that does “not presuppose the outcome” of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the new health care law.
He said he disagreed with Democrats who called the health care law “the law of the land.”
“It is the law of some of the land right now,” he said, referring to court challenges.
Democratic Sen. Irene Aguilar expressed concern about the language of the grant, which she said appeared to take “away all reference to federal health care reform.” She ultimately voted to approve the grant application.
“But I guess it seems a little ridiculous to be submitting a grant for a federal program that is created under federal health care reform, and in the grant to take out all the components of federal health care reform,” she said.
Specifically, Aguilar said she’s concerned that the grant proposal does not talk about risk-adjustment and making sure that some plans are not unfairly getting the unhealthy people.
“A lot of the stuff that’s taken out were things that are written in federal health care reform,” she said.
By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)