Q&A with Diane Mitsch Bush, Democrat candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District

DIane Mitsch Bush
Courtesy DIane Mitsch Bush

Q. Looking beyond the campaign to a time next year when you are actually a member of Congress, let’s assume Donald Trump is re-elected and Democrats fail to capture the Senate, what are the two to three policy priorities you will take the lead on to best represent the interests of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District?

A. First, I will work across the aisle to protect the Affordable Care Act and lower health care costs. There have been multiple attempts to repeal the ACA, which would destroy protections for the 300,000 people in CD-3 with pre-existing conditions. I’ll work with my colleagues to improve the ACA by ending surprise billing, authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, fully funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program — CHIP — and ensuring that resources get to our rural hospitals.

Second, I will work to establish a federal infrastructure bank to rebuild our communities and create good-paying jobs in CD-3. We desperately need funding for our electric grid, water infrastructure, broadband and transportation infrastructure in Colorado. Funding infrastructure has major multiplier effects, as we saw in the recovery from the Great Recession. For example, increasing broadband access means people here can access telehealth services — thus improving the quality of our health care. Additionally I propose incentives for 21st century small manufacturing businesses here in CD-3.

Third, I will protect our public lands. They are a major economic driver here, especially for agriculture and the outdoor industry, and most of our water supply comes from them.

Q. And how do you intend to work with the other party to effectively achieve these priorities?

Bringing stakeholders to the table, finding common ground and forming coalitions is the best way to create policy to help our businesses, families and communities. That’s what I did in the State House. President Trump and Senate Republicans have long talked about infrastructure investment, and that’s an opportunity to say “we all agree that our infrastructure needs help—let’s fix it together.” I worked across the aisle in the State House to pass infrastructure funding and earned a reputation as a consensus builder willing to go against my party leadership in order to get things done. I’m a work horse, not a show horse, and will use those same skills in Congress to pass legislation that will help people in CD-3 — whether we’re investing in infrastructure, lowering the cost of health care, or helping small businesses thrive.

I’ll build relationships with my colleagues from the other Western states so that we can tackle common issues facing our communities, like aging infrastructure and drought. At the Statehouse, I found that urban and suburban legislators need education on the everyday realities of rural issues. In Congress, I’ll advocate for rural Colorado and educate my colleagues on the unique challenges we face here.

Q. According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, U.S. per capita health care spending has nearly quadrupled from $2,900 per person in 1980 to $11,200 in 2018 and the United States pays more for health care services than other advanced economies. With these statistics in mind, do you have a health care reform plan to deal with the issue of skyrocketing health care costs, and if so, please outline it?

A. First, I will protect the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, funding for the Medicaid expansion program that has helped thousands of people in CD-3, mental health parity and provision that allows young people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans. Repealing the ACA will increase health care spending due to cost shifting and emergency room use by people without coverage.

Second, I will work to improve the ACA and lower the high health care costs. That means ending surprise billing — one of the primary causes of family bankruptcy in the United States. I support authorizing Medicare to negotiate for more affordable prescription drugs. The Veterans Administration already does this, and the cost of their medicine is a fraction of what Medicare pays. I’ll secure more resources for our rural hospitals because they don’t have the resources or funding that they need. Expanding telehealth services will ease the strain on rural providers, especially mental health providers.

Finally, we have to fully fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program — CHIP. More than 23,000 children in CD-3 rely on the program for health insurance, and I won’t leave them without care.

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Q. As a member of Congress, what type of coronavirus relief package would you support and how would that relief assist businesses and individuals, especially in your Congressional district? (196/200 words)

A. I will work to get more financial relief to local and county governments, small businesses, nonprofits, and people in CD-3. I support a coronavirus relief package that also provides more funding to nonprofit organizations in CD-3 that are working around the clock to help people in our communities, especially people who have lost their job and employer provided health insurance or are facing housing insecurity due to the pandemic.

Small businesses need additional support from programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, but this time we have to significantly improve the administration of the program to make sure small businesses actually get relief in a timely manner and multinational corporations don’t take advantage of it.

The lack of funding for local and state governments in COVID-19 relief packages has devastated Colorado’s budget. Our state’s disaster emergency fund is running low, and the unemployment trust fund is about to run out of money — that would force the state to take out a loan from the federal government. Additionally, so many people get their insurance from their employer, and increasing unemployment means that more people are applying for Medicaid, which strains the state budget more due to the pandemic.

Q. Climate scientists anticipate hotter, drier summers for Colorado in the years to come, raising the potential for even more devastating fires than what we’ve seen this year. What would you do in Congress to help address the rising intensity and frequency of fires in the West?

A. Since 2000, wildfires have increased in frequency and devastation due to climate change, an increase in the number of homes in the Wildland Urban Interface, and several federal management issues. Multiple agencies are tasked with fire prevention efforts, including prescribed burns and mechanical fuel removal. Recently there has been more interagency coordination, but we need more.

I will work with agencies and my colleagues across the aisle to end “fire borrowing,” which has led to major funding imbalances at the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and decreased adequate fuel management and prevented ecosystem management. I signed annual fire plans as a county commissioner, so I know firsthand the importance of coordination between federal, state, and local agencies.

The former one-size-fits-all policy of complete suppression of all fires led to unhealthy forests with plenty of fire fuel, especially in the understory. Couple that with climate-induced drought, high temperatures, decreasing snow packs, low humidity, and dry soil and you have the “perfect fire storm.” I will work to tackle climate change now. I will work with fire scientists and firefighters to decrease the conditions that fuel wildfires.

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