Single-payer backers go for ballot measure in Colorado

Single-payer backers go for ballot measure in Colorado


Peter Marcus

The Durango Herald 

October 20, 2015


Lauren Farnsworth, left, and April Buell hand out literature and juice shots from a mock bar on an outdoor pedestrian mall, encouraging the public to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, during a promotional campaign launched by Colorado HealthOP, an independent nonprofit health care co-op, in Denver. Proponents are preparing to submit signatures for a 2016 ballot initiative that would create a single-payer system in Colorado.

DENVER – Proponents of a single-payer health-care ballot initiative in Colorado are preparing to submit signatures on Friday.

ColoradoCare backers say they have more than the necessary 98,492 signatures needed to qualify for the 2016 ballot, though they will need to survive a validation process by the secretary of state’s office.

The proposal comes at a pivotal moment in Colorado’s health-insurance landscape, after state regulators last week prohibited the state’s insurance cooperative from participating in the Nov. 1 yearly open enrollment period on Connect for Heath Colorado, the state’s insurance marketplace.

Colorado HealthOP is facing an uncertain financial future after being notified this month that it would receive only 12.6 percent of federal funding associated with payments to offset startup costs. The issue hit the national spotlight, as critics of the Affordable Care Act say it is an example of failed government health-care policies.

ColoradoCare is an initiative that would add to the debate by eliminating private insurance for a 10 percent premium tax so that the state can cover health expenses. It would amount to a $25 billion tax increase.

“The uncertainty that we continue to have in our health-care system … made people hungry for something a little bit different,” said state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, a physician and proponent of the effort. “The frustration with Congress … provides a good tilling of the soil for the possibility of Colorado designing its own system,”

Employers would share employees’ costs by paying 6.67 percent of the 10 percent, leaving employees with a 3.33 percent responsibility. After seeking a waiver under the ACA, federal dollars also would be made available.

ColoradoCare would reflect a cooperative model by electing a board to oversee operations. The 21-member board would represent different districts.

Critics, however, say the recent struggles with Colorado HealthOP should make Coloradans wary of a single-payer model. They say reforms stemming from the ACA should be given time, including Connect for Health Colorado. Opponents also worry the 10 percent tax won’t cover expenses, forcing the board to ask for more money.

“Coloradans deserve, and absolutely need, real free-market reforms to ensure their lives are safe and healthy,” said Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of the right-leaning Advancing Colorado. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for insurance bailouts, and insurance consumers shouldn’t be forced to buy health-care plans with mandatory minimum mandates.”