November 16, 2015
Colorado HealthOP last month became the nation’s latest Obamacare health co-op to shutter its doors, prompting activists in the state to force a public referendum on next year’s ballot to replace it.
But rather than scrapping Obamacare in favor of a more market-based approach, their solution is a full-fledged government takeover of the state’s health insurance market.
The move is something of a vindication for conservatives who have argued all along that Obamacare was intended to be a bridge to a single-payer system, where the government becomes the sole payer of health care costs. That means the government will be making all health care decisions.
“We all look like Nostradamus right now,” said Jonathan Lockwood of Advancing Colorado, a conservative group opposing the proposed program, known as ColoradoCare. “We all predicted that Obamacare would create single-payer health care.”
Whether the scheme succeeds or fails, it shows what liberals in other states will be looking to do as Obamacare continues to self-destruct.
Whether the scheme succeeds or fails, it is an important harbinger that shows what liberals in other states will be looking to do as Obamacare continues to self-destruct.
The collapse nationwide of 12 of the 23 state health co-ops — nonprofit health insurance plans designed to compete with for-profit insurers — has flushed the $1.23 billion they received in federal startup funding down the toilet.
Insurance premiums also are skyrocketing — the Obama administration admitted insurance premiums will increase by an average of 7.5 percent for 2016 — causing even Obamacare proponents to conclude its promise of affordable health insurance through subsidized state-based marketplaces is unattainable.
For opponents of the health care law, the only surprise has been how quickly its patchwork scheme to insure more young and low-income people is unraveling.
“You’re seeing everything about Obamacare collapse. Now the people who want single-payer are saying everything we’ve been saying,” Lockwood said.
ColoradoCare would replace the insurance plans available on the state’s health care exchange with a new single-payer, government-run insurance plan.
The state-run, Medicare-style plan would cost $25 billion a year and would be paid for with a new 10-percent payroll tax. It would be governed by a board of 21 advisers responsible for setting reimbursement rates to health care providers, which would likely rival those paid by federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Health insurers in the state warn such a scheme would destroy their industry, leaving perhaps one firm to run the state program as a monopoly, or crowding out the private sector altogether.
Whether the Obamacare to single-payer trajectory is more attributable to design or incompetence remains an open question.
“I think that the Democrats that supported the Affordable Care Act truly believed they were helping the health care system,” said Devon Herrick, a health care economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “But you could predict [the collapse] ahead of time because the advocates of ACA didn’t understand how insurance markets work.”
“Every single American needs to be terrified of something like single-payer coming into their state, because it could happen to them, too.”
Proponents submitted enough signatures for ColoradoCare to be put up for public referendum on the 2016 ballot.
Michael Bennet, the state’s vulnerable Democratic senator, is seeking re-election in 2016, and there is speculation the single-payer drive is a proxy to boost voter turnout among lower-income and minority voters.
Because Colorado is a so-called purple state, Republicans have eyed Bennet as low-hanging fruit in their quest to knock off incumbent Obama-loyalist Democrats in the Senate. Conservative groups have started running ads blasting him for his 2010 vote in favor of Obamacare and blaming him for the failure of the Colorado co-op.
Bennet’s office did not respond to a query asking whether he supports the single-payer initiative. He has also dodged similar questions from other news outlets.
Colorado is not the first state to flirt with dumping Obamacare in favor of a fully government-run health care system. Vermont authorized the creation of a European-style single-payer system in 2011, but was forced to abandon the plan in early 2015 because of cost overruns.
“Other states should be on red alert for this,” Lockwood said. “Every single American needs to be terrified of something like single-payer coming into their state, because it could happen to them, too.”