Colorado plan would replace Obamacare
Single-payer system carries $25B price tag
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.