Nor­ton: Over­haul to hap­pen

The for­mer Colorado lieu­tenant gover­nor is con­fi­dent ACA will be re­pealed and re­placed.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John Frank

BOS­TON» A top Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial from Colorado ex­pressed con­fi­dence Tues­day that Congress will act to “re­peal and re­place” the Af­ford­able Care Act, telling state law­mak­ers at a sum­mit that “the sta­tus quo is un­sus­tain­able and un­ac­cept­able.”

Jane Nor­ton, the for­mer Colorado lieu­tenant gover­nor who now serves as the di­rec­tor of in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal af­fairs for the U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, pointed to ris­ing costs for health care pre­mi­ums, lim­ited in­sur­ance op­tions in ru­ral counties and tax penal­ties as the pri­mary prob­lems with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s fed­eral health care law.

In an in­ter­view af­ter her re­marks at the bi­par­ti­san Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures an­nual meeting in Bos­ton, Nor­ton said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is “com­mit­ted as ever to make sure we can re­peal and re­place.”

“Our se­na­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives are home now, and they are hear­ing from their con­stituents that we need to do some­thing, that we have to have relief now,” she told The Den­ver Post in her first in­ter­view with Colorado me­dia since tak­ing her job. “I think we have to.”

The po­si­tion serv­ing un­der Sec­re­tary Tom Price makes her as one of the more prom­i­nent voices in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on health care. And she faced tough ques­tions from state law­mak­ers at the con­fer­ence who are wor­ried about how the de­ci­sions in Wash­ing­ton will af­fect state bud­gets and health care op­tions.

In re­sponse to a ques­tion, she ex­pressed sup­port for in­volv­ing Demo­cratic law­mak­ers in the ne­go­ti­a­tions. “I think the bi­par­ti­san ap­proach ob­vi­ously is the strong­est, most sus­tain­able ap­proach,” she said.

Nor­ton served as the No. 2 for Gov. Bill Owens from 2003 to 2007, be­com­ing the first Re­pub­li­can woman to hold that job. Ear­lier she served as a state law­maker and led the Colorado De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health and En­vi­ron­ment. She is mar­ried to for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney Mike Nor­ton.

Ear­lier this year, Trump al­lies in Colorado — whom she de­clined to name — called and asked if she would serve in the ad­min­is­tra­tion. She ac­cepted the job but drew less no­tice com­pared to other prom­i­nent Colorado lead­ers who joined Trump’s team.

Nor­ton said she ad­mires what Trump is try­ing to do in Wash­ing­ton. “I think he’s coura­geous, in terms of shak­ing things up and do­ing things dif­fer­ently,” she said. “And I think he has com­mit­ment to im­prov­ing our health care sys­tem.”

In Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, she was ap­pointed the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices re­gional di­rec­tor in Den­ver. In her new job, she di­rects the work of all 10 re­gional of­fices.

Her ap­point­ment came un­der scru­tiny from abor­tion rights or­ga­ni­za­tions who ex­pressed con­cern about her pre­vi­ous ef­forts to wage “a war on Planned Par­ent­hood” and block the or­ga­ni­za­tion from re­ceiv­ing state tax dol­lars.

But Nor­ton sees it as an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue her work from Colorado, where as the pub­lic health agency di­rec­tor she saw “the is­sues around af­ford­abil­ity of health in­sur­ance and ac­ces­si­bil­ity.”

Nor­ton lost a nar­row — and bruis­ing — Re­pub­li­can pri­mary for U.S. Se­nate to Ken Buck, who later lost to Demo­crat Michael Ben­net in 2010. She said she still thinks about her last run for elected of­fice and joked that she’s grate­ful she didn’t win. “I think the good Lord was pro­tect­ing me from my own wants,” she said.

But asked about an­other run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice in Colorado, Nor­ton said she has no in­ter­est. “Not a zip,” she said. “Zero, nada.”

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