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Affordable Care Act sparks friction at Polis town hall

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Congressman visits mountain area

By Beth Potter

Congressman Jared Polis' visit to the mountain area on Saturday was by turns contentious and congratulatory.

The Boulder Democrat spoke to about 70 people in a town hall meeting at The Place in Evergreen, and personal privacy and the Affordable Care Act were on the minds of the audience members.

Polis’ 2nd Congressional District covers all or parts of Jefferson, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Eagle, Gilpin, Grand, Larimer, Summit and Park counties. The district was redrawn after the 2010 census to include Conifer and Evergreen.

A shouting match erupted among audience members over a question about the Affordable Care Act, which requires Americans to buy health insurance or face tax penalties from the Internal Revenue Service, among other things. The controversial law was passed by Congress in 2010 and took effect Jan. 1.

Some at Saturday's 90-minute gathering clearly were not fans of the health care law, while others seemed generally in favor of it.

Polis told the audience that he wants to make sure Affordable Care Act policies “work better for the American people,” which drew applause. In general, some people now pay less for health insurance and some people pay more as a result of the law, Polis said. Most people aren’t affected because they have health insurance through their employers, he said.

However, officials are looking into why some health premiums in the Colorado ski resort regions of Summit, Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties cost twice as much as in some other places in the state, Polis said.

Privacy issues

When asked about privacy rights, Polis said he supports an individual’s right to privacy. He said he was “as shocked as anybody” by media reports that people affiliated with the National Security Agency used their broad cell-phone monitoring powers to snoop on the whereabouts of their own significant others.

The audience clapped enthusiastically when Polis said he welcomes comments to his Twitter account (@RepJaredPolis and @JaredPolis) and to his Facebook page (Jared Schutz Polis). They also applauded when Polis said he supports a ban on dolphin and whale killings in Japan, as well as when he agreed with an audience member about the need to re-introduce the gray wolf to Colorado.

Polis also highlighted some of his recent work, including his focus on a new education bill that would update the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. That law requires testing in reading and math to make sure students meet national standards. A new national education bill would include accountability standards, Polis said, without giving details.

Polis also said he is one of about 40 sponsors of a bill to create a national infrastructure fund. Money from the fund would help make it cheaper for governments to build such projects as roads and schools. The fund would be supported by private corporations bringing overseas earnings back to the United States in return for not paying tax on those earnings, Polis said. Other incentives also would be involved, he said.

Polis is up for election this year. Three Republicans have thrown their hats in the ring to face off in a primary in June for the 2nd Congressional District seat: Bob Comer, George Leing and Larry Sarner. The Republican winner in the primary will face Polis in the November election.

The 2nd Congressional District was redrawn after the last census to include more conservative mountain areas; it formerly had Boulder at its epicenter.