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Hickenlooper Travels To DC To Show Opposition To Health Care Bill

By Shaun Boyd

WASHINGTON (CBS4) - Colorado's top two Democrats campaigned against the Senate's version of the health care bill in Washington on Tuesday.

John Hickenlooper Bipartisan
Gov. John Hickenlooper with Gov. John Kasich (credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper joined Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, while Sen. Michael Bennet was part of a marathon news conference by Senate Democrats.

"It's a political document," said Bennet, "It doesn't have to do with health care."

Hickenlooper echoed the sentiment, calling the bill "the un-health care bill."

While they campaigned in D.C., the Colorado Medical Society and Colorado Hospital Association sounded an alarm at the Colorado state capitol.

"We call on the Senate to go back to the drawing board," said Trampas Hutches, CEO of Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke.

Their biggest concern is Medicaid. The bill doesn't cut the program but it slows its growth, with states picking up more of the tab. Under Obamacare, Medicaid was expanded to include low-income able-bodied adults without kids. In Colorado, the number of recipients has gone from 550,000 in 2010 to nearly 1.4 million today, or about a quarter of the state.

Hickenlooper says the loss in federal dollars will mean more than 600,000 Coloradans will likely lose coverage.

"Governors will be in the difficult position, the impossible position, of trying to allocate resources where you know you're not going to have the coverage," said Hickenlooper.

The Congressional Budget Office says the Medicaid savings will help reduce the deficit by $320 billion. But, Bennet says he isn't cheering.

"Because the way they're getting those numbers is by slashing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and slashing health care for poor people to pay for it."

Both Bennet and the governor say they've reached out to Colorado's Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who helped draft the bill.

"By hook or crook, I'll get ahold of him before there's any vote. I'll go camp out on his doorstep if I have to," said Hickenlooper. "It takes tremendous courage to step up. I think Cory Gardner's got that courage."

Gardner wasn't available for an interview but he has told CBS4 in the past that Medicaid is unsustainable and if nothing is done, it won't be there for those who need it most. He has also argued insurers will continue to pull out of markets and premiums will skyrocket. The Congressional Budget Office says the Senate health care bill will lower premiums by 30 percent in three years, but says out-of-pocket costs will likely increase.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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