A conversation between Douglas County residents and a congressman over health care has been brewing for weeks as Republicans sought to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
That conversation is likely to continue in the weeks and months to come. The American Health Care Act, backed by President Donald Trump and some other Republican leaders, was pulled by House Speaker Paul Ryan amid lackluster GOP support on March 24 - canceling an expected vote that had already been delayed a day.
That means Obamacare remains the law of the land "for the foreseeable future," Ryan said in a March 24 news conference broadcast on Facebook Live.
The failed bill brings relief to some, like members of the Douglas County Indivisible CD4 group, but dismay to those who hoped to see the ACA go.
Shortly after news of the bill being pulled came down on March 24, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Windsor, issued a statement.
"This is a sad day for my constituents who are suffering under Obamacare," he said. "We need to repeal Obamacare, but we also need to get the replacement right."
Buck represents the 4th Congressional District, which includes Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Parker, Lone Tree, Elbert County and much of Colorado's eastern plains region.
Spencer Worley, an Indivisible member and Castle Pines resident, said he was glad to hear the bill was pulled.
"I'm glad that the ACA is still intact but I'm urging that the Republicans stand up and listen to their constituencies even if it runs counter to their party platform," he said. "The fact that it (ACA) wasn't repealed gives me hope."
Should a repeal-and-replace attempt happen again, he hopes his representative, Buck, will vote no.
Talks between Indivisible members and Buck gained momentum in February. Approximately 50 members of the Douglas County Indivisible group met with the congressman to talk health care.
While Buck has openly supported replacing Obamacare — but hasn't said whether he supported the replacement plan — most Indivisible members are passionately in favor of keeping it.
Still, both sides said communication is important to bridging political divides.
On March 22, about 30 members of Indivisible from Douglas County and Elizabeth gathered in protest outside Buck's office in Castle Rock.
Their mission: to stop the American Health Care Act from passing during the anticipated March 23 vote.
In a whirlwind of events, the vote was delayed that day, then canceled March 24 after Trump asked Ryan to pull the bill.
Buck didn't say how he would have voted, and on March 22, a spokesman said the congressman was still weighing all options on the bill.
The repeal-and-replace movement had Indivisible members worried. The plan boasted a $337 billion cut to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to a report published by the Congressional Budget Office.
That was good news for many, but bad news for those like members of Indivisible who resent that many of those cuts would have been to Medicaid funding and subsidies for the poor provided through the ACA. The Congressional Budget Office also reported the plan would leave 24 million more people uninsured by 2026, also largely tied to changes planned for Medicaid.
On March 22, a staff member from Buck's office came outside to greet the group. He thanked them for being there and participating in the democratic process, then invited them inside one or two at a time to voice their concerns.
Worley left Buck's office after meeting staff members and rejoined his fellow protesters. He thought the meeting went well, but said staff members seemed shocked by his story.
Due to a birth defect, the Castle Pines man has worn a prosthetic left arm since he was 5 months old.
"The arm I'm wearing is about a $6,000 to $8,000 arm," he said. "Insurance says I should get a new arm every five years and it's been seven."
Worley works as a manager in the restaurant industry, has a bachelor's degree and says he's never received federal aid for his disability.
When it comes to health care, he has four specific needs: a low premium, low maximum-out-of-pocket costs, a low deductible and access to "durable medical devices."
He's covered through Connect for Health Colorado on a plan meeting his four requirements, costing him $165 a month, he said.
"If I lose access to the health coverage I have currently, I may become dependent on the state," he said, "and that would be a travesty."
Gary Wyngarden, one of the event organizers, was quick to clarify that not all Indivisibles believe the Affordable Care Act is perfect. Wyngarden said he and his wife saw premiums rise considerably under Obamacare, and felt coverage lessened.
That will only worsen over time, Ryan said March 24, calling rising premiums one of his biggest concerns.
But Wyngarden said he'd rather pay higher premiums than have 24 million more Americans uninsured.
For Buck, it was back to the drawing board.
"We need to regroup and develop a better replacement for Obamacare," Buck said March 24, "one that focuses on lowering costs and ensuring coverage for as many people as possible."
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