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Time for the GOP to vote for what it believes in

(Editor's note: Top leaders in the Republican-led House supported Senate Bill 200, but the bill passed last week on a 44-21 vote, drawing only 13 Republican votes in favor. The bill was returned to the Senate for consideration of a minor amendment.) 

Their session is over, so it would be nice to have the power to import some good, old-fashioned Republicans from the Utah Legislature over to Denver to help steel the nerves of their counterparts in the Colorado House and Senate.

Long before President Obama was elected and the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was unconstitutionally - we believe - enacted, a group of Utahns led by former House Speaker David Clark started something wonderfully free market, commendably choice-driven, fiscally conservative and beautifully exemplary of what Republican lawmakers at their best do right. They established a health-care exchange where mom-and-pop, Main Street small-business owners and their employees can now go for affordable medical coverage.

On a state level and on a very different issue, they answered the equivalent of Ronald Reagan's historic prod to Mikhail Gorbachev to ‘Tear down this wall!" The wall in this case is the barrier preventing more than half of small-business owners and their employees across the nation from access to health insurance because of the high costs inflicted on them by:

• a Congress too timid to allow them to band together across state lines in order to form the same cost-saving purchasing pools legally allowed big businesses
• state legislatures spiking premiums with more and more procedural requirements on basic plans
• and - truth be told - big insurers publicly wanting more customers but privately not at the expense of losing any advantages their big clients enjoyed.
Here's another truth that needs telling, and damn the political consequences, because the stakes are too high: Many of our Colorado legislators fear the wrath of Tea Party activists who have made support of Senate Bill 200, which would establish a health-care exchange similar to Utah's, a needless ideological litmus test on which to oppose Republican lawmakers in primary elections.

Many of the goals of the Tea Party are commendable and widely shared, but in straying out of its vector and with another air traffic controller asleep in the tower, it is showing the worst side of any new political movement on this issue: The need to have a position on everything-including ones well outside their original founding purpose and, especially in the case of SB 200, their expertise.

The Colorado members of the National Federation of Independent Business, America's leading small-business association (small businesses are 98 percent of all American businesses) support establishing a Colorado-designed health-care exchange over one that would be imposed on the state by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human services, which the Patient Protection Act gives states the option of choosing.

At the same time, NFIB is the only business group named on a federal lawsuit, along with 26 states, seeking to have all of ObamaCare (the Patient Protection Act) ruled unconstitutional. We would be delighted to see it tossed, but the need for a health-care exchange will remain, so why not establish one now.

Utah didn't wait. It was the first to have a market-based one and today many small-business employers can now contribute premium dollars into its exchange and let employees decide which plans to choose from, and if there's a better plan requiring a little more money, the employee can contribute the difference.

A vibrant market, plenty of consumer choice, an option to join it or keep your old arrangement with your insurer, or not to provide insurance at all, what nice old-fashioned - and winning! - Republican values these are. Values that will long outlive populist passions sparked by a cable TV anchor's pique.
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Tony Gagliardi

Tony Gagliardi is Colorado state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. Contact him at 303-831-6099 or via email at tony.gagliardi@nfib.org.

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