Current GOP health care bill would be a ‘disaster’ for states, says Colorado governor

Politics

JOHN YANG: While President Trump's troubles over issues continue to dominate the headlines, the battle over the future of health care is still brewing in the background.

Here again, William Brangham with that story.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: With the passage of the House Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature health care law, the focus now shifts to the U.S. Senate.

As part of our ongoing look at what's at stake for health care in the U.S., we are joined now by Democrat John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado.

Welcome to the NewsHour.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, D-Colo.: Nice to be here.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, before we talk about health care, can I just get your reaction to these latest revelations about the president and his dealings with the FBI?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Sure.

And I — you know, I think it shows two things. And, you know, I got into politics, I became mayor of Denver when I was 50. And I made all kinds of mistakes, because being an executive in business is very different than an executive in public life. So I kept doing dumb things.

But this really kind of shows how much power the president of the United States has. And, obviously, he can make decisions to declassify information and share it as he wants. But it has all kinds of ramifications beyond what I think he is thinking, just because he's never been there before.

You know, I look back at some of the really dumb things that I did when I first became mayor, and maybe it got on the front page of The Denver Post. But that was — I could dig myself out.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You attribute this to rookie mistakes?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Yes. Well, I think it's a much broader landscape. And I think he's used to being able to throw — really lobby, push his weight around.

You know, the comments to James Comey, they're disconcerting. There's no question. But we will see. I mean, we don't have all the information yet. But it's — it's amazing, the whole thing.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amazing, it is.

Let's talk about health care.

You have been a very sharp critic of the House GOP's bill that is now before the Senate. What's your principal concern there?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, as written, that bill would be, I think, a disaster for Colorado and most of the country.

Really, it in no way improves the health care system. It is going to make it harder to get insurance for people who lose their coverage. And, probably, to finance it the way the House wants to, it's going to end up rolling back, forcing governors to roll back coverage on people with Medicaid.

In Colorado, it will probably cost us over — between $1 billion and $1.5 billion of additional costs. It's just a cost shift to the states. And what's the real benefit? We're doing over 10 years a trillion-dollar tax cut for the highest earnings in America, who the ones I have talked to in Colorado, they're not fighting to get this tax cut.

It's not something they're seeking. I'm not sure — I don't get what the point of it is.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You obviously know this is their attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act.

What has that law, President Obama's law, meant for Colorado thus far?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: So, Obamacare allowed to us expand Medicaid coverage. We got about 400,000 more people covered in that avenue, through that avenue, and about 200,000 people through our exchange. We did our own exchange, so much more coverage, a lot of that support.

But I'm the first person — there were problems. It definitely needs to be improved. But you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. And, you know, I look at what the landscape looks like, and, again, I don't think the Senate will ever pass what came out of the House, just because there are too many both Democratic governors and Republican governors that are saying, you know, we're not — we don't want to roll back coverage.

We're willing to discuss and negotiate who gets how much coverage, and is the coverage for Medicaid maybe a little too rich? I think all of us agree we have got to get our arms around controlling the incredible inflation that's gone on in health care for the last 30 years, independent of Obamacare.

But I don't think any of us, Republican governors, like John Kasich or Brian Sandoval, they don't want to roll back Medicaid coverage, and then Democrats like myself.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, how do you see this going forward? Obviously, the House bill is going to be modified in some way by the Senate, but let's just say some version of the Republicans' ideas end up coming down to the states. What does that mean for you?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, it would be difficult, unless there's some change in how they're thinking of financing this, and how much of that new cost they're going to put on to states.

You know, block grants, fine, but if you don't allow it to have some flexibility, if you don't allow it to grow when you have got disasters or when there's sudden instances of medical inflation, then you're really — you're kind of handcuffing the states and tying them to a — to something they can't possibly pay for.

That's not healthy. It makes governors have to pay — make terrible decisions. I think what the Senate hopefully will do — and I think they might do this — is sit down and talk with some governors, Republicans and Democrats. It shouldn't be a partisan deal.

But governors are the ones who have to implement this stuff. Let's get a group of us to sit down with a couple of senators and say, how do we — we all have the same kind of goals. This shouldn't be partisan. Right? Let's all settle down. How do we control costs and make sure we don't roll back coverage?

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I appreciate that, the idea of bipartisanship, but bipartisanship — you have spent a few days this week in Washington, D.C. — it's not high on anyone's agenda, it seems.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, there are a lot of blockages, and there is a lot of bitterness. Right?

I think it's years of attack ads and, you know, people — you know, I was in the restaurant business, and we learned early on that there's no margin in having enemies. No matter how unreasonable that person is, you don't let them leave angry, whereas, in politics, so often, people define themselves by their enemies and how mean they can be or how sharp can — how barbed can their comments be about that person?

Well, after that election or after that specific policy issue, suddenly, you're supposed to work together again. That's not always in human nature. So, I think people should spend a little more time looking down the road and saying, at some point, I'm going to have to work with this person again. Maybe we should be a little more cordial.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, thank you so much.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: No, thank you.

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