By Jesse Paul
Cory Gardner doesn’t like Obamacare.
Ask the Republican senator from Colorado about how to improve health care and the first response you’re likely to hear is that President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 Affordable Care Act needs to be repealed. It’s “destroying this country,” he once said.
Ask Gardner for his plans to replace the law, however, and his response will probably be more about what he’s against — Democratic proposals for a public health insurance option or “Medicare for All” — than what he’s working toward.
“Democrats want to replace the Affordable Care Act with socialized medicine,” Gardner said in an interview. “I don’t want that.”
But if Gardner and congressional Republicans have a better idea, they haven’t shared it.
President Donald Trump has spoken of coming legislation, but part of the problem has been GOP infighting over how to move forward. That killed the party’s chance to unwind the Affordable Care Act in 2017, as they’d vowed to do for years, when Republicans took control of Congress and the White House. “We haven’t kept our promise,” Gardner said last year.
Gardner can identify goals for the replacement legislation, but not exactly what it would do. Still, he says, America doesn’t need Obamacare to have a functioning health care system.
“This is not a zero-sum game,” Gardner said. “It is not the ACA or nothing. We can have, and have been working on, a plan to reduce costs and increase the quality of care. That’s what I will continue to work on.”
Democrats see the lack of a Republican health care plan as a liability for Gardner and are working to make sure voters know about the gap heading into November. They are making health care a top issue in Colorado’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, in which Gardner faces a difficult path to reelection.
Gardner’s opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, and his Democratic allies are already running ads slamming Gardner over his votes to roll back or undo the Affordable Care Act.
“Cory Gardner said he would be an independent voice for Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a campaign video. “He said he would protect preexisting conditions. He says a lot of things. Then he goes to Washington.”
They’re also the highlighting the lack of a Republican health care plan.
“Each time the Republicans promised that they would have a better plan, a different plan, a replacement plan — the Republicans have no health care plan,” said Kathleen Sebelius, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, in a recent interview with The Colorado Sun.
Gardner supports parts of the Affordable Care Act that are most popular — including protections for preexisting conditions — but Democrats attack him by pointing out that any effort to unwind the law would jeopardize those provisions. That’s left the senator in the difficult position of trying to explain how he backs elements of a broader policy that he doesn’t…