Vail Daily column: A real solution for the health care crisis
Discussion of the High Country￢ﾀﾙs ballooning health insurance costs can often be found in the pages of this and other publications, but one need not pick up a newspaper to see and feel the crippling effects they are having on our community. While the Vail Valley is by all accounts economically thriving, many locals are barely able to keep their heads above water. We all accept that living in such a unique and amazing community can require sacrifices, but the current cost of health care in Eagle County, Colorado and the United States at large is simply unsustainable. Locals are forced to choose between essential services for their families and being able to enjoy this incredible place. Small businesses which could expand must decide whether they can afford insurance for more employees. Even large companies will face an increasing labor shortage if more people decide that the valley is unaffordable. I don￢ﾀﾙt think it an exaggeration to describe this situation as a crisis ￢ﾀﾔ one which will require big thinking and bold action to solve. Fortunately, such a solution exists, and we as Coloradans have the power to make it reality. I￢ﾀﾙm talking about ColoradoCare.
ColoradoCare, Amendment 69 on this November￢ﾀﾙs ballot, would establish a statewide health insurance cooperative, providing comprehensive health care benefits for all Coloradans. Instead of faceless corporations deciding the fate of millions, imagine a health insurance cooperative designed by Coloradans, owned by us, its patients, and controlled by trustees we elect. Instead of outrageously expensive coverage, which covers even less than expected, imagine comprehensive health care benefits with no deductibles and no copays for primary or preventative care. Instead of a system in which an estimated 27 percent of national health care expenditures are unnecessary, imagine a program which saves Coloradans $4.5 billion per year. While no health care system in the world is perfect, ColoradoCare would dramatically improve affordability and access to care for its patients.
Not only is such a system possible, it would be a much smaller financial burden for the average Coloradan. As of 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that a health insurance plan similar to that proposed in ColoradoCare would cost the average Colorado family 23 percent of their annual income on the individual market; in Eagle County it could be even more. Though the situation can be better for those on employer-provided insurance, out-of-pocket expenses can still run into the thousands of dollars, and employers feel the sting of ever-increasing health care costs. By contrast, ColoradoCare would require only a 10 percent payroll tax, with 6.67 percent covered by the employer and the remaining 3.33 percent covered by the employee. You can calculate for yourself on the ColoradoCare website how this would affect your health care costs or those of your business, and I think you will be impressed. As an added benefit, Coloradans would have peace of mind knowing that while those rates may eventually need to increase, they cannot do so without a vote from the owners of ColoradoCare i.e. us.
By embracing the concept of ￢ﾀﾜMedicare for all￢ﾀﾝ and adapting it to fit our state, Eagle County residents and the rest of Colorado will enjoy full comprehensive health care benefits without the threat of financial disaster from out-of-pocket expenses or out-of-control premium increases. Compare the current situation with the savings which will be generated in ColoradoCare, and it becomes clear what the right choice is for the Vail Valley.
Max Hoo lives in Vail.