Advancing Colorado targets $25B single-payer system income tax hike

Critics target universal health-care plan

Proponents collecting signatures for $25B tax question in 2016

Peter Marcus
The Durango Herald
June 19, 2015

DENVER – Critics of a proposal to create a state-based universal health-care system in Colorado are mounting a campaign to fight the looming 2016 ballot initiative.

Proponents are in the process of collecting signatures to place the $25 billion tax question before voters. They have until Oct. 23 to submit 98,492 valid signatures to the secretary of state’s office.

The effort is an uphill climb, however, as Colorado voters tend to reject tax increases, especially one as steep as $25 billion. Still, opponents – led by a free-market advocacy group – say they aren’t taking any risks.

“I don’t think that Coloradans would be widely supportive of it, but … it’s a very sneaky, very deceptive campaign,” said Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado.

Lockwood worries that proponents are characterizing the initiative as a way to get the state out of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA allowed for states to seek waivers from health insurance exchange requirements in order to create a state-based universal system.

If the initiative is implemented, all sources of income would be taxed at a rate of 10 percent. Taxes on wages, salaries and tips would be collected from employers and employees. Taxes on all other income sources would be collected from the taxpayer earning the income. The initiative would create a 21-member ColoradoCare board that would develop the health-care system.

Proponents say 80 percent of Coloradans would pay less than what they currently pay for private health-care premiums and related costs.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday upholding a critical provision of the ACA that protects health-insurance subsidies, ColoradoCare proponents said there still needs to be a push for universal care. Colorado was not affected by the ruling because it established an insurance exchange separate of the federal government.

“The decision leaves our country with the most complicated, most expensive and most inequitable health-care system in the world. And the ruling doesn’t get us what any decent democracy ought to have: health care for everybody who needs it,” said T.R. Reid, spokesman for ColoradoCare. “The court’s ruling emphasizes once again the need for a cost-effective health-insurance plan that covers everybody. ColoradoCare is that plan.”

But Lockwood has several concerns, among them is the steep tax increase. He worries that the tax estimate could be off, and that there would be a need to levy even more than $25 billion. Lockwood also wonders how the board would guarantee quality health care.

“The worst part about it is people are saying this is going to save us money; it’s going to make it so that people don’t have to buy other health plans,” Lockwood said. “That’s not true. We don’t know what it’s going to cover. The board can decide what’s going to be covered and what’s not going to be covered.”