Coloradans will vote on a ballot measure that would institute a statewide single-payer health care system to be known as ColoradoCare.
The November 8 ballot proposal, state constitutional Amendment 69, would raise an estimated $25 billion in its first year by imposing an additional 3.33 percent payroll tax on all employees in the state and a 6.67 percent payroll tax on employers, in addition to a 10 percent tax on non-payroll income.
The amendment would supersede the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a constitutional amendment approved in 1992 that prohibits the state and local governments from raising revenue in excess of population growth and inflation or raising taxes without voter approval.
Amendment 69 would transfer all Medicaid, children’s health insurance, worker’s compensation, and Obamacare enrollees to ColoradoCare by requesting a waiver under Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act. Medicare and benefits for veterans, which are administered by the federal government, would proceed unaltered.
‘Incredibly Dangerous’ Proposal
Linda Gorman, director of the Health Care Policy Center at the Independence Institute, says the 15-member board slated to govern the new entity would be unaccountable and imperious.
“This thing is incredibly dangerous,” Gorman said. “It is not an agency of the government or anything else. It is its own entity, so it gets around all the checks and balances that we developed to try to limit cronyism and corruption in state government.”
Far from empowering disenfranchised patients, Amendment 69 would protect the establishment, Gorman says.
“The people who are going to do well in this new system will be the people who do well in government: the connected, the rich, and the politically powerful,” Gorman said. “Everybody else is toast.”
Lack of Oversight
Advancing Colorado Executive Director Jonathan Lockwood says the board administering ColoradoCare would inevitably bow to political pressures.
“The ColoradoCare campaign leaders say they don’t want the board subject to the control of the legislature and governor—meaning no oversight,” Lockwood said. “And yet they are trusting the people they don’t trust to oversee the board to appoint the board.”
The drastic tax increase would inhibit business owners from profiting and creating jobs, Lockwood says.
“I think the tax hike itself is prohibitive to job growth in Colorado,” Lockwood said. “To businesses already here, the tax hike would be devastating to business owners, large and small.”
Doubles Size of Government
Michael Fields, state director of Americans for Prosperity–Colorado, says Amendment 69 would double the state government’s cost and power.
“That’s the opposite of what we need to do,” Fields said. “This is a proposal that is $25 billion to start with, and the whole [state] budget is $27 billion, so you’re almost doubling the state government.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has endorsed ColoradoCare, although Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) abandoned a similar proposal in 2014, citing economic concerns.
Adopting a single-payer law in Colorado could dissuade for-profit health insurers from relocating to the state, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) told attendees at a Colorado Forum event in January, according to a recording obtained by the organization Complete Colorado, which opposes Amendment 69.
“The single payer issue … cost [is] going to be huge,” Hickenlooper said at the event. “I can’t imagine there’s any chance that it will pass. But I can tell you there are a couple large health care-related companies that are looking at moving their headquarters here, and they saw … that’s going to be on the ballot, [and] they paused.”
Come One, Come All
The ColoradoCare governing board, which would increase to 21 elected members in three years, could be elected with ballots from noncitizen residents otherwise ineligible to vote, Gorman says.
“You don’t have to be a citizen to vote,” Gorman said. “They say that any resident of the state will get health care. A resident of the state is undefined. That means noncitizens—anybody who manages to show up in Colorado—gets health care from this program.”
A single-payer system will inevitably prompt the government to ration finite health care resources and deny patients care, Gorman says.
“I’ve been trying to explain it’s the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] writ large,” Gorman said. “Buried in that is part of their mission is to control per-capita spending on health care. There’ll be huge shortages. If they follow the path that we see in Canada and Great Britain and the VA, you’ll have much less investment in capital equipment. You’ll have ancient, dodgy hospitals and crummy [diagnostic] imaging.”
Popular Demand vs. Desire
Universal coverage of health care costs will not translate into universal access to health care, Lockwood says.
“We need to expand the number of people, not just being covered, but actually getting care—not just this bureaucratic program that hijacks the money and the people who are supposed to be provided relief by it,” Lockwood said.
A poll conducted by Magellan Strategies found a majority of Coloradans support the measure ahead of the November 8 vote, Denver Business Journal reported in May.
Ben Johnson ([email protected]) writes from Stockport, Ohio.
Linda Gorman, “Amendment 69: What You Need to Know About the ‘ColoradoCare’ Single-Payer Health Care Measure,” Independence Institute, December 22, 2015.
Matthew Glans, “Colorado Should Reject Single-Payer Health Care,” Research & Commentary, The Heartland Institute, March 30, 2016.
“No on Amendment 69—Colorado Single-Payer Initiative,” Coloradans for Coloradans, 2016.