Colorado amendment would create new state healthcare system

Haley Candelario

Colorado constitutional amendment 69 is one of nine statewide ballot measures substantiated to appear on the Colorado ballot this November.

The amendment would create a new healthcare system for the state known as ColoradoCare, which would implement a new payment procedure to finance universal healthcare for residents of Colorado.

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Amendment 69 seeks to create Coloradocare, a new state level healthcare system. The new program is a universalized system. (Ryan Arb | Collegian)

The goal of the initiative is to distribute healthcare to all Colorado residents, despite financial circumstances, by collecting a premium based on the resident’s income.

If the amendment does not pass, Colorado’s current healthcare system will not change.

If voters choose to support Amendment 69, the new system will aim to contract with medical providers in order to pay for specific healthcare benefits as well as regulate Medicaid, basic health programs for children, and remaining state and federal healthcare funds. The amendment would designate ColoradoCare to pay for healthcare services despite the cause of a patient’s illness or injury.

The goal of the new system is to cover all state residents with healthcare. A few of the extensive benefits offered by ColoradoCare include hospitalization, rehabilitative services and devices, mental health services and chronic disease management.

Some supporters of the amendment said they support the benefits of ColoradoCare.

“I think that there’s value in the comprehensive benefits that are offered, for instance, mental health and women’s healthcare are important,” said Julie Liebenguth, a second year graduate student majoring in political science.

Additionally, ColoradoCare would substitute the medical care piece of workers’ compensation, remove deductibles and get rid of co-payments for preventive and primary care services.

“I think I’m just a proponent of universal healthcare in general, and I think it would be exciting if Colorado initiated the change throughout the country,” Liebenguth said.

If the amendment passes, the system will cost the state about $25 billion in tax dollars, according to ColoradoCareYes.

John Straayer, a professor in the CSU political science department, said the cost of ColoradoCare is an issue.

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“The major problem is it’s a hard sell because it’s a terribly complicated measure,” Straayer said. “First of all, the price tag… is $25-26 billion. That’s a lot of money.”

The tax revenue would be generated partly through an additional ten percent income tax collected by the state. Two-thirds of the tax would be paid by the employer while the remaining one-third would be paid by employees, according to BallotPedia.

Additionally, a 10 percent tax would be placed on non-payroll income, exempting revenue from the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights. A premium tax would also be implemented to most income sources, from salaries, wages and tips, to any Social Security benefits, pension payments and annuities that are not authorized for the Colorado pension/annuity subtraction.

“The taxpayers in Colorado on tax issues … for the last several decades have just voted ‘no, no, no,’” Straayer said. “They don’t want to pay… Do they want to vote ‘yes’ for something [that’s] $25 billion? I don’t think so. So, I think that the price tag is a problem.”

Although the cost of ColoradoCare appears high to some opponents of the amendment, proponents of the amendment say the tax would save the state money.

“It would actually save our state about $4.5 billion because the amount we would be paying in taxes would replace the amount we’re currently spending,” said Mahira Ganster, a member of Rams for ColoradoCare.

While Straayer disagrees with the cost of the system, he said the significance of the issue on the ballot is important.

“We’ve got winds in two different directions on healthcare,” Straayer said. “One of them is … that our healthcare system is a mess, and getting more and more expensive. There are people falling through the cracks.”

However, Straayer said he believes the amendment will fail due to some opposition’s belief that health care systems are socialistic.

“The opponents to this or to any single-payer healthcare system can appeal to that set of notions (of socialism) that’s been out there for so long,” Straayer said. “The wind, in that sense, blows against the success of something like this. (But) the problems (with the current system) and the cost of the existing system blow in favor of it.”

Marni Berg, a professor of Colorado State University’s Political Science department, opposes the amendment and does not think it will pass.

“It is a constitutional amendment, which I don’t understand,” Berg said. “Why (is) our funding bill part of the Constitution?… It would be one thing to have an amendment that healthcare is a basic right, but I don’t like having spending bills as part of our constitution because then it’s really hard to change anything … The whole U.S. has for profit insurance companies for healthcare which I think is a huge problem.”

Stayyer said the issue was complex and that he was not sure if the system would work as the first try.

“Something like this – I’m a bit ambivalent on it,” Staayer said. “I guess in my view I think it’s a bit complex, and a bit premature, but I do think it’s something that eventually has to come. I’m sympathetic to and in favor of the concept of a simplified and perhaps single-payer system, I’m just not sure this is the one, so I’m cross-pressured.”

Collegian reporter Haley Candelario can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.