Stephens defends health care exchange, leaves before vote on repeal effort

Politics

State Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, sponsored legislation creating the state’s new health insurance exchange but has been a vocal opponent of Obamacare.

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DENVER — State Rep. Amy Stephens left a hearing Tuesday afternoon before a politically difficult vote on a proposal from a fellow Republican to repeal the state’s new health insurance exchange, something created three years ago by a bill she co-sponsored.

But she left little doubt about her eventual vote — and she will have to take that vote on the record because Democrats, after Stephens leaving around 3:20 p.m., planned to delay a vote on the proposal until the committee meets again.

Stephens, R-Monument, is currently trying to gain traction in her bid for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination — and her support for the legislation creating the exchange, a key piece of Obamacare, is unpopular with Republican primary voters.

With Democrats in control of the committee and the statehouse itself, House Bill 1192 has no chance of passing; it’s just a political gambit by the sponsor, Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, aimed at placating the conservative base.

That gambit appeared to come at Stephens’ expense, given the difficult choice it presents her with: look like a flip-flopper by supporting the repeal of her own legislation or double down on an issue that will hurt her with the voters her campaign needs to court?

But as Joshi presented the bill, Stephens fired away with tough questions and offered a full-throated defense of the bill that created the state’s own health insurance exchange.

“How can we in this climate, in this reality actually [repeal the exchange] when this is the law of the land?” Stephens asked Joshi, noting that repealing the state exchange would just force Coloradans, still subject to Obamacare mandates, to use the federal healthcare marketplace instead.

In 2011, Stephens sponsored Senate Bill 200, which created the exchange, based on her belief that a state-specific exchange would be preferable to the federal marketplace.

“Do the right thing for the people,” one witness testifying in support of Joshi’s bill told Stephens.

“I believe I did,” she responded.

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