Jason Salzman, Colorado Times Recorder

Everyone agrees that having health insurance is more important than ever, so why are Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and President Donald Trump continuing to try to dismantle Obamacare, asked a group of health care advocates during a digital “town hall” Tuesday.

They cited data and their personal experiences to make the case that hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who’ve gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) cannot afford to have the national health care law further weakened or lost now.

Grace Thomas, a storyteller with Rocky Mountain Values, a progressive advocacy group, said their bout with COVID-19 cost about $1,000, even with health insurance, as their out-of-pocket expenses added up.

“Right now, people should be able to save their money and not spend all of it on pharmaceuticals,” said Thomas.

Without health insurance, a patient’s costs for COVID-19 treatment could go through the roof, said Adam Fox, Director of Strategic Engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a nonpartisan health advocacy group.

“If you need treatment for COVID-19, you’re looking probably at $20,000 to $30,000 minimum walking out of the hospital, probably much higher than that,” said Fox.

Fortunately, Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) has allowed Connect for Health Colorado, where Coloradans can sign up for Obamacare insurance, to open for a “special enrollment period,” running through April 30, allowing uninsured folks to sign up for health insurance, said Fox.

At the federal level, Trump decided not to allow open enrollment under Obamacare during the pandemic.

But Coloradans who lose their jobs and/or don’t have health insurance can get coverage from the Obamacare exchange–and low-income people with no insurance can sign up for Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid resulted in over 400,000 Coloradans gaining health insurance, lowering Colorado uninsured rate from about 16% to 7%.

“The pandemic illustrates how far we’ve come with our health system and how far we have to go,” said Fox, citing the high costs of health insurance for many people and the number of people who do not have insurance.

But the loss of the ACA would “exacerbate the problem we face right now,” said Fox.

Penny Potts, a teacher and cancer survivor, said her own family and the families at her school rely on the ACA, in part because her pre-existing condition would have made it difficult or impossible for her to get insurance without it.

She said Gardner, who hasn’t made a public statement about Obamacare in months, and the Trump Administration are “forgetting the people they are supposed to serve” by trying to eliminate the ACA during the pandemic.

Alice Kresh, a respiratory nurse, said the bill for her son’s birth was $2.8 million, due to horrific complications.

Kresh had “really good” health insurance through her employer, but she thinks “all the time about where we would be” if they hadn’t had health insurance.

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