Colorado plan would re­place Oba­macare

Sin­gle-payer sys­tem car­ries $25B price tag

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

DEN­VER | With Colorado’s shaky Oba­macare ex­change in peril, some health care ad­vo­cates are call­ing for vot­ers to scrap it and re­place it with some­thing far more am­bi­tious.

Pro­po­nents of a statewide sin­gle-payer health care sys­tem have sub­mit­ted 156,107 sig­na­tures, far more than the 98,492 re­quired to qual­ify for the Novem­ber 2016 bal­lot, to the Colorado sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice for ver­i­fi­ca­tion.

If the mea­sure qual­i­fies, Colorado would im­me­di­ately be­come ground zero for a na­tional de­bate on the con­cept of steep tax in­creases in re­turn for guar­an­teed health care cov­er­age for all res­i­dents, all against the back­drop of a piv­otal pres­i­den­tial race.

The pro­gram, called ColoradoCare, comes with a steep price tag: $25 bil­lion, which would be raised with a 10 per­cent pay­roll tax in­crease. At the same time, the plan would pro­vide all res­i­dents with Medi­care-style health care cov­er­age and al­low the state to dump Oba­macare.

Whether Colorado vot­ers would agree to take on that kind of tax hike is an­other ques­tion — two years ago, they re­jected a com­par­a­tively pal­try $1 bil­lion tax in­crease for ed­u­ca­tion — but there is no doubt that the “no-more-Oba­macare” ar­gu­ment res­onates with cer­tain seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion.

“For some peo­ple, I say, ‘It gets us out of Oba­macare,’ and some peo­ple cheer,” T.R. Reid, a spokesman for ColoradoCareYES, said dur­ing the sig­na­ture-gath­er­ing cam­paign. “It’s a pur­ple state, and we have this pur­ple plan that can ap­peal to both sides.”

Un­der the pro­posal, known as Ini­tia­tive 20, em­ploy­ers would be on the hook for the lion’s share, 6.67 per­cent, and em­ploy­ees would be re­spon­si­ble for 3.33 per­cent of the 10 per­cent. The pro­gram would be ad­min­is­tered by a non­profit co­op­er­a­tive, not a state agency, run by a 21-mem­ber board.

Much as Colorado con­ser­va­tives may dis­like Oba­macare, they were quick to de­nounce the sin­gle-payer pro­posal.

“‘Af­ford­able’ care just got more ex­pen­sive in Colorado,” Colorado Sen­ate Repub­li­cans said on Twit­ter.

Jonathan Lock­wood, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the free-mar­ket Ad­vanc­ing Colorado, warned that ColoradoCare “will triple Coloradans’ taxes to rake in a state bud­get­sized $25 bil­lion a year.”

“ColoradoCare is a cha­rade, and their cam­paign has been de­cep­tive on ev­ery level, prey­ing on mil­len­ni­als and the un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties, promis­ing them re­lief that will de­liver pain,” Mr. Lock­wood said.

Sup­port­ers ar­gue that the state’s $25 bil­lion es­ti­mate is too high and in­sist that the plan would ac­tu­ally save peo­ple the money they would nor­mally spend on health in­sur­ance. In ad­di­tion, the pro­gram would al­low Colorado to opt out of the Af­ford­able Care Act, which would free up fed­eral dol­lars.

“We’re a rich, com­pas­sion­ate coun­try. We should pro­vide health care for ev­ery­body,” said Mr. Reid, a former Wash­ing­ton Post reporter. “We’re not go­ing to get there at the fed­eral level. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment can’t do much. They’re grid­locked. So the way we’re go­ing to get there is state by state.”

The plan also al­lows Colorado to avoid join­ing the fed­eral Oba­macare ex­change if the state ex­change crum­bles. The strug­gling Con­nect for Health Colorado took an­other hit Oct. 16 when state in­sur­ance co­op­er­a­tive Colorado HealthOp was dropped from the an­nual Nov. 1 roll­out over a lack of financial sta­bil­ity.

“Ear­lier this month, the Cen­ters for Med­i­caid and Medi­care (CMS), an­nounced it would only re­im­burse the na­tion’s health in­sur­ers 12.6% of what they were en­ti­tled un­der the pro­gram — only $362 mil­lion out of $2.9 bil­lion promised,” the state Divi­sion of In­sur­ance said in a state­ment.

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