Tipton talks environment, health care in tele-town hall | PostIndependent.com

Tipton talks environment, health care in tele-town hall

Ryan Summerlin

In place of an in-person town hall for his constituents, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton used a phone conference Wednesday to field questions, many of which focused on his environmental initiatives and uncertainly surrounding the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Several callers were concerned about rolling back environmental regulations.

A Telluride woman in particular questioned the congressman about his support of a recent executive order by President Donald Trump attacking the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule, which sets the scope of water protected by the Clean Water Act.

State water law has always been respected by the federal government, but the EPA has been overreaching its authority granted by Congress — to the point that it was going to regulate “every ditch and puddle of rain water,” said Tipton.

The EPA was going to undermine state water law and Colorado’s priority-based system for water rights, he said.

The congressman has also said that Colorado is a model for air protection by control of methane releases. And he’s fought EPA regulation of methane, saying that the redundancy of regulations was costly to the energy industry.

Tipton was also supportive of Congress’ use of the Congressional Review Act to rescind the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0” initiative, which the BLM promoted as a vehicle to broaden citizen input in public-lands planning. Garfield County’s was among local governments that argued the rule diminished their input.

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress the ability to step in where it sees overreaches, said Tipton, who added that it was important to “get Congress back into that rule-making authority.”

Tipton called for an “all of the above” energy policy that takes advantage of all available energy resources, including the coal industry, which has seen setbacks that have come as heavy blows to families in coal-dependent communities on the Western Slope.

The proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act was the next big topic on constituents’ minds.

“I’m pro repeal of the ACA, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for any replacement,” said Tipton.

The GOP’s bill to replace the ACA, dubbed the American Health Care Act, is going to be marked up in committees, he said. “We, like you, are going to monitor what comes through the Ways and Means Committee,” said Tipton.

A staffer from St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction called in concerned about where the GOP’s plan would leave Medicaid funding.

The congressman said Congress should “not underestimate the value of Medicaid,” which “has an important role to play.” But he also pointed out big increases in the cost of health care that accompanied the expansion of Medicaid in Colorado.

More than 400,000 people in Colorado are estimated to have been added to Medicaid through the ACA.

With the expansion of Medicaid in Colorado, the state has seen major health care cost increases, he said. Well over 28 percent of the state budget goes to costs incurred by Medicaid.

“When it comes to health care, every American would like affordability and accessibility,” said Tipton. And in the rural 3rd Congressional District, people have missed out on that promise, seeing high co-pays and double-digit increases in premiums. People on the Western Slope are also paying more than their urban counterparts, often for identical plans, he said.

Tipton said a work requirement for able-bodied people to get Medicaid would be appropriate.

Tipton also supports opening state lines to allow health insurance companies to compete in different states.

States should be able to continue setting their own minimum standards for healthcare, but opening up the state lines will create competition in the marketplace to drive affordability, he said.

In 14 Colorado counties, there is only one provider, said Tipton. “That is not choice.”

“We’re going to be moving to make sure we have competition in the marketplace.”

Health savings accounts are also expected to be altered under the American Health Care Act, using pretax dollars, which will benefit low-income people and incentivize small business owners, he said.

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