Colorado may Double State Tax to provide Universal Health Care

Single-payer hitting close to home

Amendment 69 would create a health care payment system that would partly finance health care for Colorado residents through a $25 billion increase in state taxes. Photo: Getty Images
Amendment 69 would create a health care payment system that would partly finance health care for Colorado residents through a $25 billion increase in state taxes. Photo: Getty Images

I’ve attended several recent industry conferences here in Colorado. And as you might expect if you’ve been following the news, one topic dominated the conversation:universal health care.

The November ballot in the Centennial state will include an initiated constitutional amendment known as Amendment 69, which, if passed, will create a health care payment system that would partly finance health care for Colorado residents through a $25 billion increase in state taxes.

According to the ColoradoCare website, the program would “cover all residents and cost less than the current system.” Some of the projected benefits listed on the site include ambulatory patient series, hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health services, emergency and urgent care, and preventive and wellness services.

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The site features a quote from Bernie Sanders, stating that Colorado “could lead the nation in moving toward a system to ensure better health care for more people at less cost. In the richest nation on earth, we should make health care a right for all citizens.”

Of course, not everyone views the amendment in such a positive light.

At the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters Symposium last month in Denver, Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton said the amendment’s goal is to make Colorado the “test tube for single-payer health across the United States,” and added that the only requirement to qualify for health care would be a driver’s license. “Imagine the number of people with chronic conditions who will be moving to Colorado as a result of this initiative.”

He also cited an estimated cost of $25 billion in year one alone, which “would effectively double Colorado’s budget.” He said business groups around the state keep telling him, “You’ve got to be kidding me, there’s no way this thing is going to pass.” His response? “Never underestimate the power of what people perceive to be free on the ballot.”

Surveys indicate opponents have reason to worry. Polling of Colorado voters showsstrong support for the Amendment, and a recent report from the Denver Business Journal noted that even when pollsters were presented with the opponents’ point of view, “approval still remained at 51 percent, as opposed to 43 percent disapproval.”

At the CIAB Leadership Forum in Colorado Springs, retired neurosurgeon and former 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson offered another criticism.

“Single payer would be awful,” he said, because it would “remove the element of competition. It would remove the excellence.” If the U.S. moved to such a system, he said, the forces that helped create centers of excellence like Johns Hopkins and Mass General would disappear. More importantly, he said, “it’s not the American way.”

Come November, we’ll see if Coloradans agree, via another staple of the American way: the polling booth. In the long run, their decision could have far-reaching implications.

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