ColoradoCare supporters celebrate healthy signature count
October 23, 2015
From left, Carla Massaro, Lynda Blake and Suzanne Trask celebrate gathering enough signatures to put before voters an initiative for universal health care for all Colorado residents at a rally Friday in Fort Collins.
Supporters of single-payer health care in Colorado gathered more than 156,000 signatures for their cause, creating a buffer they see as all but guaranteeing voters will see the proposal on their 2016 ballots.
Those in Fort Collins were so happy Friday morning they even formed a conga line when dancing to “This Land is Your Land.”
“We’re on the ballot for sure,” ColoradoCare spokesperson Katy Kohnen said, adding she started crying when she heard the number of signatures collected. “It’s going to make a huge difference in people’s lives.”
ColoradoCare would create a statewide health cooperative that guarantees health coverage for every family that files taxes in Colorado. Its supporters needed to gather about 99,000 valid signatures to make the ballot for November 2016. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office still needs to validate those submitted in Denver on Friday morning.
“It’s fairly historic, where we’re at today,” state Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said, emphasizing the grassroots nature of signature collecting. “That shows you the power and strength of when people come together.”
He was followed by the city’s other two Democratic legislators, Reps. Joann Ginal and Jeni Arndt, all praising the efforts of volunteers and the aims of the initiative. They, like the volunteers, also prepared for the work of making the case to voters in the coming year.
“It’s going to be a spirited discussion, but we’ll work hard and stick to the facts,” Kefalas said. “I think voters will understand the benefits of bending the cost curve.”
The program would cost an estimated $37.6 billion in 2019, the first calendar year that advocates say it will be fully operational. Of that, $25 billion would come in the form of a 10 percent income tax shared among employees and employers, or paid outright by those with non-payroll income.
While a big tax increase on its face — Colorado currently uses a flat 5 percent income tax to fund much of its statewide government — ColoradoCare supporters argue it will actually save each resident $515 annually in health care costs and businesses a collective $3.8 billion.
But at least one ColoradoCare opponent thinks the costs won’t keep up with projections, forcing an immediate increase in collections.
“(Early cost projections are) never accurate,” Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of free market advocacy group Advance Colorado, said. “That $25 billion is going to burn really fast when you open the floodgates for unrestrained (care).”
He worried if voters OK the initiative that the at-first appointed board to govern ColoradoCare would need to raise taxes the first day to keep the program afloat. Lockwood added it also might not cover all of residents’ health care needs, and secondary health insurance costs could skyrocket due to a smaller insurance pool.
“I just think what we’ll see is a destabilization of what’s already a very delicate health care system here in Colorado,” Lockwood said.
He said his group plans a media blitz and counter-grassroots effort to stop the initiative. Proponents say they’ll be ready to push their message, too.
“Now that we’re on the ballot, guess who’s going to be coming for us?” Kohnen asked the dozens of people Friday at the Fort Collins rally.
A shout of “insurance companies” rang out before she continued, “That’s right. Big money, so they don’t lose it.”