WASHINGTON — For a former Internet entrepreneur, Rep. Jared Polis is not acting like the “dot.com congressman” who seeks to apply a technocratic solution to the the problems afflicting the rollout of Obamacare. As the Boulder Democrat acknowledges, he is acting like, well, a plain-old congressman.
Polis confirmed he is seeking a waiver for residents of one mountainous county who face 50 percent increases in their premiums for private health insurance if they enroll in the Colorado’s state-insurance marketplace. As the website HealthPolicySolutions.com reported, Polis’s proposal would put residents of Summit County in the same region as more lowland counties with lower insurance rates. “If someone in Frisco gets hurt, he or she is more likely to go to a hospital in Boulder or Denver than in Summit,” he said in an interview Wednesday evening.
In addition to representing unsuspecting constituents in his Boulder-based district, Polis betrays little doubt to liberals that the glitch-filled out of the federal website for Obamacare will be fixed soon.
“Clearly, the website and call center have suffered from problems,” he said in an interview Wednesday afternoon, “but um, well, I’m optimistic they’ll be resolved” in the upcoming months. Polis’ comments echoed President Obama’s remark at a White House event Monday that “we are confident that we will get all the problems fixed.”
Seeking a carve out for constituents and echoing the talking points of the president of your own party is a common practice for members of Congress in a polarized political era. But Polis has said he is not an average congressman. After he won his first term in the House of Representatives, Inc. magazine published an interview with Polis in which he said he is “a different kind of congressman. Not a typical career politician.”
Polis’ background differs from his colleagues in many ways. Besides being one of the few openly gay members and an original member of the “gang of four” liberal funders of the Democratic Party in Colorado, Polis achieved success as a high-tech innovator. He co-founded or founded no fewer than three major Internet companies — American Information Systems, Blue Mountain, and ProFlowers.com — and sold them for nine figures.
In his third term in office, Polis has voted in an often atypical and pragmatic fashion.
For the first week of the partial government shutdown this month, he voted on final passage for a continuing resolution to open government agencies six of seven times, a position that most House Republicans and few of his Democratic colleagues shared. Some of Polis’ votes for individual federal spending bills had a direct effect on his district, which was ravaged by floods last month. Others, such as funding for the National Institutes of Health, did not.
Polis’ background in the high-tech world would make him a natural spokesman or honest broker about the myriad technical woes that afflict HealthCare.gov and the websites of state-insurance exchanges, such as Colorado’s. Other House Democrats have assumed that role instead. “It’s screwed up,” Rep. Charles Rangel told Politico of the federal health website.
Polis downplays his experience as a tech entrepreneur and implied he could provide little insight to administration officials who seek to fix the technical glitches of HealthCare.gov. “Keep in mind the technology was different eight to ten years ago than today,” he said, noting that his site ProFlowers.com had thousands of daily visitors while HealthCare.gov has millions.
Also, Polis defended his waiver as consistent ideologically with Obamacare.
While Republicans have predicted the Affordable Care Act would not be affordable to the middle-class uninsured, Polis implied his waiver is an exception to the rule that the law will lower insurance rates. With residents of Summit County being required to pay $600-$700 each month for private insurance or face a federal penalty, Polis believes they deserve to qualify under the “hardship” provision of Obamacare. “That’s our job as members of Congress: to look out for constituents,” he said.
Standing in the cloakroom Wednesday evening, Polis defended himself light-heartedly from the suggestion he was not using his high-tech background to solve the fix the rollout of Obamacare. He asked a reporter if he needed assistance with his personal computer. And he repeated his line he is acting no differently than his colleagues. “I’m guilty of looking out for my constituents,” he said with mock weariness and opening a door to the floor of the House of Representatives.