Debate on Amendment 69 healthcare proposal continues | SteamboatToday.com

Debate on Amendment 69 healthcare proposal continues

Teresa Ristow

— Steamboat Springs retiree Mayling Simpson said she would end up paying more for health insurance under the proposed universal healthcare system being put to Colorado voters this fall.

But despite the increased costs for Simpson and her husband, Paul Hebert, the two have studied the Amendment 69 proposal — also known as ColoradoCare — and are speaking out in support of it.

The couple spoke alongside ColoradoCare opponent and restaurant owner Rex Brice during an informal debate at the Kiwanis Club on Tuesday as part of a three-part series of election-related programs hosted by the club.

"Paul and I got into this deeply, because we weren't sure how to vote," Simpson said.

Because taxable portions of retirement income, including pensions, annuities and IRA income, would be taxed at 10 percent under the new law, and because Simpson and Hebert currently have a low-cost insurance plan, the two would end up paying thousands more annually under the proposal.

But, Simpson said, in her eyes, the benefits to other Coloradans facing medical emergencies outweigh the costs.

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"These insurance companies are draining us all dry," Simpson said. "Billions of dollars leave Colorado each year for companies on the East Coast."

The financing system proposed through Amendment 69 would include the creation of a new, 10-percent payroll tax for all residents, with two-thirds paid by employers and one-third by employees, to fund healthcare costs.

Income earned by the self-employed, business owner profits and any non-payroll income would also be taxed at 10 percent.

Steamboat Restaurant Group owner Rex Brice said Tuesday that he doesn't disagree with Simpson's assessments about the country's failed healthcare system, but he doesn't see Amendment 69 as the answer.

"What we have today is broken … but two wrongs don't make a right," Brice said. "Just because we have a bad system doesn't mean we should pick the first choice that comes along."

Amendment 69 would implement the financial mechanism to fund a new healthcare system, but many particulars for how the system would work would be decided by the new board, which Brice said he finds concerning.

"This is too far-reaching, and it lacks oversight," Brice said. "This is a plan to make a plan."

There is also disagreement between proponents and opponents of the amendment as to whether the money generated from a 10-percent payroll tax would be enough to fund healthcare for all residents.

Opponents have also questioned whether the healthcare system would attract people with healthcare needs to Colorado or drive others away from the state, including location-neutral business owners or new small business owners.

Brice said he was particularly concerned for small business owners, including restaurant owners, who don't currently pay for employee insurance, because they can't afford it.

"As I looked into this, it really looked like something that was going to negatively impact the Colorado economy and small businesses," he said.

Brice encouraged people at Kiwanis to do their own research and learn more about the amendment.

"I encourage you to do research on both sides," Brice said. "Become informed about this."

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

Potential impacts for public entities

Any business or entity currently paying more than 10 percent of total payroll on insurance could save money under ColoradoCare. Local residents Mayling Simpson and Paul Hebert shared with Kiwanis a list of potential financial impacts of Amendment 69, as reported by Routt County public entities.

• Routt County government, savings of $2.8 million

• City of Steamboat Springs, savings of $1.93 million

• Town of Oak Creek, savings of $71,000

• Steamboat Springs School District, savings of $1.6 million*

• Hayden School District, savings of $312,000*

• South Routt School District, savings of $335,000*

*Cost savings represent current total costs to employees and employers versus the costs under a 10-percent payroll tax. Savings could be lowered, depending on the outcome of collaborative bargaining negotiations.

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