Health-reform foe plans fight

Not every health care fight is being waged in Washington, D.C. Battle plans are being devised in Colorado for a fight over a ballot measure that would in theory allow the state to opt out of a federal health care scheme.

The “Right to Health Care Choice” amendment to the Colorado Constitution would, according to author Jon Caldara, prohibit the state, alone or “at the insistence of the United States,” from requiring any person to participate in any form of health insurance.

Dr. Michael Pramenko, a Grand Junction physician, said it would do more than that.

Caldara’s proposed constitutional amendment would be better titled “The Cost Shift Protection Act,” Pramenko said.

“Cost shift” refers to health care providers factoring the costs of unpaid care into the bills of paying patients, inflating the bills those people must pay.

Caladara’s measure would “make it a constitutional rule that we cost shift,” Pramenko said.

“I don’t know why anybody would be against this initiative,” Caldara said, noting the individual mandate it’s aimed at defeating has been tried in Massachusetts, “and it’s been a spectacular failure.”

The individual mandate is the key to spreading the costs of health care to people who now are uninsured and thus not contributing to the overall costs of care, Pramenko said.

Club 20, the Western Slope lobbying and promotional organization, supported the individual mandate two years ago, and Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown said the organization has seen no need to change that assessment.

The discussion went through a logical progression of issues so compelling “that even if you started out opposing the individual mandate, you’ll support it when you get through it,” Brown said.

Caldara said he was unimpressed with arguments for the mandate.

“We’ve seen how Obamacare works in reality, and it’s in Massachusetts,” Caldara said. “No wonder the voters elected Scott Brown after living through the hell they put themselves through.”

Scott Brown, a Republican, won a Senate seat this year in a race widely considered a referendum on health care reform.

As much as he opposes Caldara’s initiative, Pramenko said it presents “one of the best teaching points” on the problems besetting the health care system and how to inject personal responsibility into it.

Caldara’s amendment is before state officials, and it will be at least a month before he can begin collecting the signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot in November, Caldara said.

Club 20 has taken no position on the Caldara measure, but “my strong recommendation will be that Club 20 oppose it,” Reeves Brown said.

With the continued national debate on health care, more light needs to be shed on Grand Junction and the nonprofit model under which it operates, Reeves Brown said.

“Here’s a community that gets it,” he said, citing collaboration among hospitals, physicians and insurers that other communities might follow, as well as illustrate the need for regulatory reform.

“This might be the opportune moment for the stars to align,” he said.


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