The divide at a Colorado Springs forum over health care reform mirrored a national split that has seen little room for common ground.

Debate at The Gazette's health care forum Friday evening centered on how best to ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions as Republicans struggle to revamp the nation's health care system.

Much of the rancor was directed at Colorado Springs' Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn, who bucked a trend among other GOP lawmakers and braved the public eye.

"We all agree that we want the best health care for people in Colorado, and the United States," Lamborn said. "How we get there, we may disagree on."

He added, with a wry smile: "In fact, I've detected some disagreement tonight."

The forum, attended by about 100 people, was held at the Historic Day Nursery, and came as the Senate plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have stalled, leaving a seven-year campaign promise unfilled and the future of former President Barack Obama's health law unclear.

A vote is planned for next week on a repeal-only version that would set a later deadline for Congress to come up with a replacement.

Scrapping the health law would leave 32 million people uninsured by 2026, while slashing $473 billion from the federal deficit in that time, the Congressional Budget Office said this week.

The bill is considered dead on arrival, with several Republican senators having announced plans to vote against it.

Displeasure with the health debate so far, and anxiety over those benefits being yanked, made for a raucous evening at the forum, sponsored by The Gazette, Colorado Politics and AARP. Residents were encouraged to voice their opinions outside of the echo chamber of social media and have a direct dialogue with each other and their representatives.

The other panelists gave Lamborn credit for even appearing. Most GOP lawmakers - Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner included - have avoided public meetings throughout the health care debate, reluctant to face crowds upset at legislation drafted largely in secret.

Much of the debate Friday evening focused on the government's role in ensuring access to health care.

But how to guarantee that while keeping insurance rates affordable has dominated talks on Capitol Hill.

Lamborn suggested high-risk pools as a solution for helping ensure access to coverage - a common tool before Obamacare's passage in 2010 and that Republican lawmakers have routinely pitched in replacement plans.

Such high-risk pools are programs that are meant to cover patients with high medical costs - shielding healthier people from having to help pay for their care.

State Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, countered that high-risk pools were often burdened with high premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Lamborn also touted provisions in the House bill that aim to lower insurance rates for younger Americans.

"Young people have a better opportunity - they can afford insurance better under the Republican plan," Lamborn said. "And that's good for the future. We just can't pile on their backs forever."

The proposal would change an insurance rating system that experts say would shift costs from younger people to older Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare.

Met often with moans and hisses from the audience, Lamborn conceded that the majority of letters sent to his office asked him not to repeal Obamacare.

He said he voted for the House plan in May - called the American Health Care Act - because he needed to consider all the constituents he represents.

"Letters and calls are important," Lamborn said. "But also sometimes leadership is just making the right decision."

The response drew a sharp rebuke from the audience. Silvia Earhart criticized Republicans' plans for reshaping Medicaid in a way that would likely mean deep cuts to benefits granted long before Obamacare's creation.

She said the proposals caught her by surprise - a problem, because her 15-year-old son, Ethan, is autistic and relies on Medicaid to help pay for his care.

"They want to be heard," Earhart said, of the rowdy crowd.

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