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Afternoon Headlines June 28, 2017

Posted: June 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm by , in Headlines

Members of the Colorado arm of disability rights group ADAPT are occupying Sen. Cory Gardner’s office to demand that the senator vote against the Republican Senate proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Activists began their sit-in on Tuesday morning and remained in the senator’s office overnight. They say that the Republican proposal, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, will be devastating to those living with disabilities and their families.

The Congressional Budget Office says the bill would reduce projected Medicaid spending by a total of $772 billion by 2026, and that the number of people covered by Medicaid in a decade would be 15 million fewer than under Obamacare. The office also predicts that the GOP plan will reduce the number of Americans with health insurance by 22 million by 2026.

The bill has struggled to win Republican support as written. Gardner, who was among the 13 Republican senators who drafted the bill behind closed doors, has said in recent days that he has called for more transparency and more time to debate the bill. “It’s frustrating that instead of actually reviewing the legislative text some have decided to immediately oppose the bill before it was even introduced. This deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction,” he said in a statement.

In a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, attorney Carrie Ann Lucas, a longtime disability rights activist, wrote, “Colorado ADAPT is inside Senator Gardner’s office waiting for him to commit to vote no on the BCRA. We will stay as long as it takes.”

According to Josh Winkler of ADAPT, members of the group have been trying to meet with Gardner for more than a year now, with no success. The senator’s office did not return phone calls or emails from The Colorado Independent seeking comment.

Colorado’s rural hospital administrators also are fearful in the lead up to the Senate’s vote on the Republican-proposed healthcare plan.

The proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act would end the requirement for all individuals to have insurance, allow states to rollback coverage requirements and cut Medicaid spending by more than $700 billion. Small, rural hospital administrators say the move could lead to shut downs.

Take the San Luis Valley Health Medical Center in Alamosa. It’s a small hospital, with only 49 beds. But it’s the only hospital within 121 miles with a labor-and-delivery ward, and provides crucial oncology, orthopedic and emergency services. It treats more than 10,000 emergency room visitors each year. Most of those patients are poor, and rely on Medicaid.

Hospital spokeswoman Donna Wehe [Wee-hee] says that under Obamacare, more and more patients are beginning to get routine and preventative care, which makes people healthier and keeps long-term costs down. But under the Republican plan, many of those patients could see their costs increase, or lose coverage altogether.

“If we have people bouncing around on their insurance — they’re on it, they’re off, they’re on it, they’re off—that’s just really not good for their continuity of care,” she says. “We know that so many more people now have coverage, and we really don’t want to go backwards.”

Wehe says she doesn’t know what to expect if the Republican plan passes, but holds out hope that if people lose Medicaid coverage, they might at least receive tax credits to buy insurance on the marketplace.

The Colorado Supreme Court must reconsider its ruling against a private school voucher system created by the Douglas County School District, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Tuesday.

The edict comes a day after the nation’s highest court issued a ruling on a case that touched on similar issues.

At issue is whether Douglas County parents can use tax dollars to send their students to private schools, including religious schools. The Colorado Supreme Court said in 2015 the program violated the state’s constitution.

What connects the Douglas County voucher debate to the just-decided Trinity Lutheran v. Comer case from Missouri is that both states have so-called Blaine Amendments. Such provisions prohibit state tax dollars from aiding religious practices. Nearly 40 states have similar language.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state of Missouri must allow churches to participate in state programs when the benefit meets a secular need.

It’s unclear when the Colorado Supreme Court will take up the Douglas County case. The court has three options: It may revise its earlier opinion, request new arguments from both sides or ask a lower court to reconsider the case.

The Douglas County School District launched its voucher program in 2011 after a conservative majority took control of the school board. The district was prepared to hand out more than 300 vouchers to families before a Denver District Court ruling halted the program.

For more on these stories go to ColoradoIndependent.com.