SD8 candidates spar over health insurance solutions, intentions regarding education
Republican incumbent state Sen. Bob Rankin and Democratic challenger Karl Hanlon found much to agree on during Thursday night’s Issues & Answers Forum, but differed sharply on one key issue — how to bring down health care costs in rural western Colorado.
Rankin, who is seeking formal election to the Senate District 8 seat he was appointed to last year, touted the reinsurance bill he co-sponsored as a way to reduce insurance costs on the individual market by 38%.
Coupled with cooperative partnerships such as the Summit County Alliance, which other West Slope counties are looking to join, it’s a good start, Rankin said.
“It is structural,” he said. “Reinsurance is only good for about 8% of people statewide, and maybe 15% in our area, and it’s tremendous for single families.”
Rankin disagreed with Hanlon’s support of a public option within Colorado’s insurance marketplace.
“The public option is capping prices. … It’s not a solution, it is simply moving the cost around,” he said, adding those costs get passed on to those with private insurance.
Hanlon said reinsurance is a good short-term solution, but the public option creates needed competition in the insurance market, he said.
“You have to recognize that reinsurance was a bandaid on a gaping compound fracture,” Hanlon said. “It did have an impact on stabilizing rates … and bringing insurance costs down.”
Still, the cost per month for a typical family policy within SD8 is about $1,800, Hanlon said.
“That’s simply too much,” he said.
“I am a huge proponent of creating a public option, so that we can create some competition in the market, and so the Affordable Care Act can work the way it’s supposed to,” Hanlon said.
Hanlon took Rankin to task over his request for a special session over the summer to “talk about defunding public schools, and using that funding for private individuals,” as Hanlon described it.
“That’s a classic voucher program,” he charged.
That wasn’t the intent at all, Rankin said.
“I never said I wanted to defund public schools,” he said. “We simply asked for special session to look at possible ways that we could go back to school (given the COVID crisis) and address the many options that are out there.”
Instead, he said he’s a “champion” for K-12 education, fighting for a better state funding formula than the current one, which he said favors urban school districts.
“I believe our funding formula is unconstitutional and immoral, because kids do not have equal opportunity,” Rankin said.
Rankin also countered charges contained in recent third-party political mailers accusing him of wanting to sell off public lands, and calling him a climate denier.
“I do not have intentions and do not advocate selling public lands, … and I also don’t deny climate change, just to get those two things on record,” he said.
Hanlon was asked to explain a campaign theme that seems to suggest Rankin is “looking back,” rather than forward-thinking.
“I don’t think it’s just Sen. Rankin who’s been looking back, I think unfortunately we have been looking back for a long time on the Western Slope and not pushing ourselves forward and taking the leadership role that we should,” Hanlon said.
Rankin said he considers himself a visionary, and said his bipartisan work on the Joint Budget Committee and the Education Leadership Council are examples of that.
There is a “Boulder-Democrat, Front Range agenda” that doesn’t favor the Western Slope of Colorado, Rankin said, adding he’s “uniquely positioned” to battle on that front.
Both candidates said they support Amendment 8 on the Colorado ballot to repeal the Gallagher Amendment regarding residential and commercial property assessment rates.
Rankin said he opposes Proposition 114 to restore the gray wolf in Colorado, while Hanlon said the timing is wrong, though he said the legislature has to be prepared to implement it if it passes.
“I anticipate that it’s going to pass,” he said. But the implementation should be delayed, if it does, and the reintroduction program has to be based on science when the time comes, Hanlon said.
Rankin said he stands opposed to the measure, and added he would introduce a bill if Prop 114 passes to release an equal number of wolves in Denver and Boulder as in the Colorado wilds.
View the Issues & Answers Forum in its entirety — including arguments for and against state and local ballot questions, and debates between Garfield County commissioner, state House District 57 and state Board of Education candidates — on the Post Independent’s Facebook page:
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The three incumbents are declared, and challengers have until Jan. 25 to gather nominating signatures to run for Glenwood Springs City Council April 6.