No on ColoradoCare
If we’re ever going to make the leap to a national single-payer health care system that provides universal, affordable coverage, one of the 50 states is probably going to have to step up and prove the idea is feasible.
Let it be anywhere but here. Amendment 69 gives Colorado voters an opportunity to become guinea pigs in an experiment that eliminates the insurance bureaucracy in exchange for higher taxes and a theoretical — not promised — reduction in health-care costs.
Everyone would be covered — certainly a good thing — but, beyond that there are no guarantees that the system wouldn’t weigh like a giant anchor on the state’s economy.
If passed, the amendment would create a universal health care system known as ColoradoCare. It would be funded mostly through payroll taxes on companies and workers which would generate $25 billion to cover all residents.
The system would nullify the need for private insurance. People could choose to keep their private insurance, but they would still pay the taxes.
The state would collect a 10-percent payroll tax, breaking down to 3.3 percent for workers and 6.67 percent for employers.
What do we get for agreeing to this tax? More comprehensive benefits than the best plan on the state’s health-care exchange, no deductibles and no co-pays for prevention and primary care. Some co-pays could be waived for financial hardship.
Proponents argue that by eliminating billions in insurance administrative costs and profits, the system can put more money into services and reduce access problems. The system would use its immense buying power to control per-capita costs, slowing the rate of increases in overall health-care costs.
But that’s no sure bet. First of all, there’s a ramp-up period in which taxpayers would pay $2 billion a year into the system without receiving any direct benefits. Once it starts providing coverage, how viable will the system be? The Colorado Health Institute, a nonpartisan health policy research center, conducted an independent analysis and concluded that ColoradoCare could break even in its first year, but would slide into ever-increasing deficits in future years unless taxes were increased.
ColoradoCare says that analysis is flawed because it failed to account for more than $2.3 billion in revenues from the federal government to match state funding for Medicaid expansion and CHP+. There are safeguard built into the amendment to protect the system from budget deficits that would result without federal funding.
Who’s right? ColoradoCare is an amendment to the state Constitution. If it doesn’t work, the Legislature can’t step in with a statutory fix.
In fact, the Legislature would have nothing to do with the system. ColoradoCare would be governed by an independently elected board of 21 members. They would oversee a budget ($25 billion) that rivals the state’s ($27 billion) without the kind of checks and balances, including recall power, that the Legislature is subject to.
Opponents, primarily business interests and the insurance lobby, say ColoradoCare would make Colorado the highest tax bracket in the country, making the state unattractive to business. It would be especially burdensome to small-business owners. Sole proprietor-structured businesses, for example, would be required to pay the full 10 percent tax.
Even those enrolled in other government health-care programs would pay. The military would be in TriCare and seniors would be in Medicare, but all would be paying 10 percent of their pensions (exempting the first $24,000) into the system.
There are plenty of other of troubling aspects of the measure. How many sick people would move to Colorado just to take advantage of the coverage? How many doctors would leave if they didn’t feel the compensation rates are competitive?
Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet are among prominent Democrats who have come out against the measure. Covering all Coloradans is an ideal goal. We could go so far as to say it’s the right thing to do, provided it doesn’t wreck the economy in the process. Amendment 69 is too risky. We urge our readers to vote no.