By Lisa Young
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, campaigning for the U.S Senate, made a brief stop the morning of Aug. 22, at Delta County Memorial Hospital. While his campaign team worked on an upcoming video, Hickenlooper answered local media questions, promoted healthcare for rural hospitals and took a few shots at Republicans.
“When we expanded medicaid on a bi-partisan level both Republicans and Democrats all recognize that by expanding Medicaid we really helped rural Colorado. By some measures there were 12 to 14 hospitals that would have closed without the expanded and this is one,” Hickenlooper said referring to a bill he signed into law while governor.
Now, running for the Senate, Hickenlooper blasted incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell for supporting President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a substitute plan.
“Not only do we lose protections for pre-existing medical conditions… if we lose that we would weaken our rural health care system and would probably see 10 or 12 hospitals having to close in the middle of a pandemic. This makes no sense to me,” he said.
If he wins the Senate race this November, Hickenlooper promises to support rural hospitals across the nation and help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic. He also vowed to support a plan for universal health care coverage.
“The whole point of what we did in Colorado is what I hope to do in the U.S Senate, is to make sure we piece together universal coverage. Because as long as people don’t have coverage, then we can get infected by anybody. We are only as strong as our weakest link in health care.”
Hickenlooper chided Congress for going on a vacation while hospitals like Delta County Memorial are trying to figure out how to stay open due to the pandemic.
“The Republicans are trying to cut everything away as if they don’t understand the precarious state (we’re in). We got to almost 95% (healthcare coverage) in this state by creating a truly innovative exchange and now they want to throw it all away and start all over again.”
“Cory Gardner says he’s got some bill to protect pre-existing conditions, go check it out there’s nothing there. There’s ‘no there, there’. They don’t have a bill, they don’t have an idea ... it’s just smoke and mirrors to repeal the Affordable Care Act because they think that’s politically advantageous. What is politically advantageous is to take care of people, make sure they have healthcare.”
Hickenlooper also defended the nation’s free press when asked about Gardner’s recent remarks that the media wants Republicans to lose.
“Any good democracy is dependent upon a free and independent media. I’d love to compare when Cory Gardner thinks they’ve attacked him and when I think they’ve attacked me. Yea, the media is trying to tell the truth and they interpret things that I disagree with vehemently …. it’s the media, I expect that. A free and independent media is essential to the American style of democracy.”
Following the nomination of Joe Biden for president at the Democratic National Convention, Hickenlooper talked about the need to bring people together.
“When people have lost so much, you’ve got to bring them together and promise to build better than what they had before. And you’ll never get there without unifying around the response to a natural disaster,” Hickenlooper said.
“Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner are all using the pandemic to try and divide America by saying if you don’t open your schools up, we’ll take away money, at the same time they’re not providing any financial support for the rural school districts ... I just think the notion that you use the division of our country as political tool during a time of crises is corrupt and irresponsible.”
The brief stop in Delta this weekend was among several West Slope visits by the Hickenlooper campaign.