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Colorado GOP launches campaign against insurance exchange

Bill advances out of Senate Finance Committee

DENVER – Colorado Republicans launched their opening attack on the health insurance exchange Tuesday.

Just don’t call it an attack on Obamacare.

Colorado Republicans sounded strikingly different than in years past when talking about their proposal to abolish the state-run health insurance exchange, called Connect For Health Colorado .

Instead of tying the exchange to the federal health care law, Republicans bristled at suggestions that the move aims to undo it.

The bill “does not repeal anyone’s insurance policies,” insisted Sen. Jim Smallwood, a Parker Republican and insurance agent who sponsored the bill.

“It’s not an attempt to indict former President Obama or his legacy.”

But Democrats consider the bill a broadside attack on the federal Affordable Care Act. The measure passed on a 3-2 party-line vote, with both Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee in opposition.

“Isn’t this premature?” asked Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver. Court argued that Colorado shouldn’t dismantle the exchange with no clue what the federal government will do to change the federal health law.

About 100 protesters rallied before the hearing to urge lawmakers to retain the exchange. Protesters talked about their need for health insurance.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do if I lose my health care, and honestly, I’m terrified,” said Reyna Ulibarri of Denver.

It was a dramatic turnaround from a few years back, when Colorado set up Connect For Health. Back in 2011, it was Democrats, not Republicans, who chafed at connections between the exchange and the federal health law.

This year, it is Colorado Republicans who are frustrated by lumping the two together.

Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican, even blasted his colleagues in Washington by deriding “some of the clown show that’s going on over there with this health law.”

Opponents who packed the hearing weren’t convinced. “I understand this bill is about the exchange and not the ACA, but the two are inextricably intertwined,” said Howard Paul.

Other opponents cited the bill’s futility. Democrats control the state House and governor’s office, meaning the bill faces long odds.

“It’s just another paper-shuffling operation,” said Ed Shackelford of the Colorado Senior Lobby.

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