Election Guide 2016: Amendment 69 — Statewide health care system | SteamboatToday.com

Election Guide 2016: Amendment 69 — Statewide health care system

Teresa Ristow

Voters, during this year’s general election, will decide if Colorado will become the first state to have a universal health care payment system.





Voters, during this year's general election, will decide if Colorado will become the first state to have a universal health care payment system.

— Amendment 69 outlines a financing plan for a proposed statewide health care system called ColoradoCare.

The plan would create a new 10 percent tax on most sources of income with a goal of using the money to fund universal health care for all Colorado residents and eliminating most of the need for health insurance.

A 21-member elected board would work out the many yet-to-be determined details of exactly how ColoradoCare would work, and that board could propose future tax increases if necessary to fund the system.

Proponents of ColoradoCare argue that it would make healthcare more equitable and accessible to all people, regardless of their income, and would keep overall healthcare costs lower by eliminating the need for insurance companies.

"Every resident in Colorado would be covered with no deductibles or premiums because you'd pay through taxes for your insurance,” said Nancy Spillane, a Steamboat Springs resident and supporter of the amendment. “There would be no signing up every year, hoping your insurance company didn't hike the rates yet again, and no limiting of which providers you could see.

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“By cutting out the insurance companies, administrative costs would go down for most businesses and providers,” Spillane continued. “And the soaring costs of health care would be held in check with negotiated pricing. No one should ever go bankrupt trying to get quality health care."

The proposed 10 percent income tax would be split, with employers paying 6.67 percent of payroll and employees contributing 3.33 percent. Self-employed workers would be responsible for the full 10 percent, business profits not reinvested into companies would be taxed at 10 percent and rental property income would be taxed at 10 percent.

Retirement income up to $20,000 for people 55 to 64 years old and up to $24,000 for those 65 and older would be exempt from the tax, but exceeding amounts would be taxed at 10 percent.

People on Medicare would still rely on that program as their primary form of health coverage, but ColoradoCare could help fill in some gaps with medicare coverage.

Opponents of the amendment argue that new taxes will harm the Colorado economy and there is no guarantee that ColoradoCare will improve patient care or reduce health care costs.

The potential universal health care could also invite sick and injured people from other states into Colorado and drive away businesses not interested in paying the new tax and medical providers not interested in probable price controls.

"The best (medical providers) are going to leave," said Steve Hofman, a Steamboat Springs resident and former U.S. assistant secretary of labor. "Why would you stay in a place where the value of your labor is controlled by government fiat?"

Business owners argue that the burden for small businesses is too great, as many don't currently provide any insurance but will now be responsible for paying 6.67 percent of payroll into the system.

Local restaurant owner Rex Brice is opposed to the amendment, which he said will significantly harm independent restaurateurs who don't already provide insurance to employees. Employee gratuity will also be subject to the new tax, Brice said.

"At the end of the day, if they have to pay more, they have to raise prices," Hofman said of business owners.

Hofman said while the current health care system is flawed, ColoradoCare is not the way to fix it.

"I think we need to do something about the health care system, but my bottom line is this makes a bad system worse," he said.

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