Tipton, Pace on rare common ground

3rd Congressional District opponents oppose individual mandate in health law

Rep. Scott Tipton joined Republicans in the U.S. House on Wednesday in a symbolic vote to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The vote calls attention to the awkward positions of Tipton, R-Cortez, and his Democratic opponent, Sal Pace.

Pace, a state legislator from Pueblo, supports much of the bill but not its key provision – the mandate that everyone have health insurance. Tipton voted to repeal the bill but also likes many of its major features, including a ban on insurance companies discriminating against people with pre-existing illnesses and the ability of children to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26.

The trouble for both men is that the popular parts of the law can’t work without an individual mandate that all people carry insurance. Otherwise, people would wait until they get sick to buy insurance, and companies would go bankrupt without having healthy people on the insurance rolls to balance out the sick ones, proponents say.

“The concept cannot work unless you get everybody into the system,” said Bill Lindsay, who was chairman of Colorado’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform five years ago. “The individual mandate is in concept – and I want to stress in concept – the way to do it.”

The commission drafted a health-care plan for Colorado – which the Legislature did not adopt – that included an individual mandate. The mandate was the only way commissioners could find to make guaranteed insurance coverage work for everyone, Lindsay said.

Campaigners in both parties are looking past the economic details and are seeking to use Wednesday’s vote to hurt the opposition.

Tipton’s campaign manager, Michael Fortney, criticized Pace for not taking a firm position on the law that both sides call Obamacare.

Pace said he would have opposed the repeal vote Wednesday.

“I’ve stated my concerns with the health-care law, but this vote is nothing more than an attempt to score partisan political points,” Pace said in an email. “Unfortunately, this is another sad example of how my opponent has gone Washington by continuing to follow party leadership instead of addressing the concerns of the people of our district.”

Last week, Pace said he did not support the individual mandate. He thinks Congress could have used tax credits or other ways to expand insurance without penalizing people who don’t buy it, said his spokeswoman, Megan Dubray.

Tipton, too, likes a lot of the provisions of Obamacare, but he wants to repeal the whole law.

“I believe that there are better solutions to reform health care in this country that should include a market-driven approach that encourages competition and empowers states to expand pools to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, while keeping the promise to seniors by protecting and sustaining Medicare, and keeping critical care decisions between patients and their doctors,” Tipton said in a news release.

Tipton repeatedly criticizes Obamacare for cutting Medicare for seniors by $500 billion, in part by trying to cut fraud and reducing payments to insurance companies.

Tipton, however, voted for Republican budgets that rely on the same cuts to Medicare to reduce the national deficit. Those same budgets would convert Medicare into a voucher program for seniors to buy private insurance.

House Republicans have voted more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare, but the Senate has blocked their attempts. This was the first vote since the Supreme Court upheld the law last month.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

Tipton Enlarge photo

Tipton

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