Amendment 69 debate comes to Eagle
EAGLE — The debate regarding Amendment 69 on this fall’s ballot — commonly referred to as ColoradoCare — came to Eagle Town Hall last week when Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton argued against the proposal and Colorado Springs physician Dr. Kristine Hembrecontended it would benefit state residents.
Last week’s session was hosted by the Eagle Chamber of Commerce.
Amendment 69 proposal would create Colorado Care — a new state program that would change how health care is funded in the state by replacing insurance payments, deductions and co-pays with an income-based premium tax. All Colorado residents would pay an additional 10 percent income tax to provide approximately $25 billion to fund the universal program.
Hembre noted that Americans currently pay an average of $8,700 per person for health care coverage compared to around $3,500 average costs in other industrialized nations.
“But we don’t see a return for that. Why are we spending so much and not getting a lot out of it?” asked Hembre.
She maintained the reason why health care costs are rising so rapidly is not related to actual medical practices, but rather the profits made by large insurance companies. Hembre said large companies complicate the process of filing claims so they can deny coverage, which helps them realize huge profits. Under this free market system, Hembre said ordinary people are priced out of health care while physicians struggle to be paid for the services they provide.
She said the ColoradoCare proposal would operate as a business cooperative, funded by income tax payments that would replace insurance premiums. An elected 15-member board of trustees would oversee the program and negotiate health care charges on behalf of the people of Colorado.
Supporters of the ColoradoCare initiative include the League of Women Voters of Colorado, Denver Democrats and political activist Noam Chomsky.
“Quite often, significant progress has been initiated at the state level, then extending beyond,” Chomsky stated in a July 19 press release from ColoradoCare. “For such reasons the ColoradoCare initiative is very much to be welcomed. It will not only be of great benefit to the people of Colorado, but may also be an opening wedge to substantial progress for the country as a whole.”
Untested and risky
Stapleton presented a very different view of the ColoradoCare proposal. The Republican state treasurer —together with former Colo. Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat — is chairing the Coloradans for Coloradans No On Amendment 69 campaign.
“Never before have I seen a ballot initiative that will have as negative an effect on Colorado,” said Stapleton.
Stapleton said by levying taxes on every business and worker, as well as on pensions and other income, ColoradoCare would more than double the current state budget. Stapleton acknowledged that there is a lot of uncertainly about health care coverage in the state, but argued that ColoradoCare would result in $25 billion in unfunded liability in the state. He said businesses, particularly small operations, which would bear the brunt of the cost.
“This is a tax on every single dollar earned,” he said. “This will cause businesses to leave the state in droves. This amendment will have disastrous consequences for the state of Colorado.”
Stapleton said rather than improving the overall quality of health care in the state, Colorado Cars would result in doctors, especially specialists, deciding to leave the state. He argued that patients would no longer be in charge of their own health care decisions. “I think choice is a good thing in health care decisions,” said Stapleton.
Stapleton also argued against making ColoradoCares part of the state constitution, which will happen if Amendment 69 passes. He noted that Colorado’s economy is strong and the state’s constitutional requirement to operate under a balanced budget should result in a AAA bond rating — the highest rating. However Colorado bonds are rated AA. “It is too easy to amend things through ballot initiative,” said Stapleton. He argued if the ColoradoCares proposal was solid, the Colorado Legislature would pursue the plan. Instead, Stapleton said the majority of Colorado lawmakers oppose ColoradoCare.
Former Gov. Ritter, in a written statement, echoes that assertion. “The state constitution is already burdened with too many constitutional measures, let alone one of this cost and magnitude,” Ritter said.
The list of Amendment 69 opponents also includes Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and the Denver Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
Blake Pride, Eagle Chamber member from Rocky Mountain Insurance and Financial, organized Tuesday’s session. He noted that because it was a chamber function, the event was designed to be a non-biased presentation of the facts surrounding Amendment 69, not a rally for or against Colorado Care.
“My motivation was just that when people to vote, they end up seeing things on the ballet that they have no idea what they are about,” said Pride. “I feel it is extremely important for this community to understand what they will be voting on this fall.”
“Everyone there got some good information. That was the point of doing it,” Pride said.