Universal, Single-Payer Health Care Coming to Colorado?

Published May 1, 2013

Most state legislators around the nation are focusing on efforts either to implement or to resist President Obama’s health care law. If one Colorado state senator gets her way, however, residents of the Centennial State may not have to worry about complying with ObamaCare regulations. Instead, they will receive all their health care services from the state government.

In March, Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) introduced a constitutional amendment to establish the Colorado Health Care Cooperative, which would be a “member-owned, member-run, nonprofit cooperative,” according to Sen. Aguilar’s summary.

“All Colorado residents would be members,” she states.

Nine regionally elected members would govern the cooperative, and it would pay for health care services throughout the state. Although at first the payments would be under the traditional fee-for-service method, gradually the legislation would transition payment to an actuarially adjusted monthly fee for each Coloradoan.

As a constitutional amendment, this proposal would be submitted for voters’ approval at the next election if passed by two-thirds of the General Assembly.

Fiscal, Care ‘Train Wreck’

Dr. Linda Gorman, director of the Health Care Policy Institute of the Denver-based Independence Institute, strongly disapproves of the proposal.

“It is a fiscal and health care train wreck all in one bill,” she says. “It’s government gone wild, creating a second shadow government with taxing authority that acts independently of the existing state government.”

Aguilar’s proposal includes broad taxing authority for the cooperative. Besides absorbing all current state and federal health care funding, the cooperative would impose a tax on employers and employees. It would also be authorized to collect funds through an income tax and excise taxes on items such as sugar, luxury items, and alcohol.

This taxing authority would override Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which currently limits the state’s ability to raise taxes.

‘Bureaucrat-Intensive Monopoly’

It is unclear whether Aguilar’s proposal will receive the necessary support in the General Assembly to be placed on the November 2013 ballot. If it does and is approved by the voters, Colorado would join Vermont as the only two states with government-run health care systems.

John McClaughry, vice president of Vermont’s Ethan Allen Institute, cautions Colorado voters against following his state’s lead.

“The overall goal of single-payer health care is to put government in charge of an all-inclusive, taxpayer-financed, price-fixing, one-size-fits-all, bureaucrat-intensive monopoly health care system,” he says. “To single-payer backers, that is a worthy, indeed the highest possible, goal. That is so even if in practice there turn out to be some annoying inconveniences, like rationing, waiting lines, maddening bureaucracies, demoralized doctors and nurses, shabby facilities, obsolete technology, declining quality of care, and of course much higher taxation.

“Don’t worry. Your government can work those things out,” he added, sarcastically.