Our view: Amendment 69 — Too big, too risky | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Amendment 69 — Too big, too risky

At issue:

Colorado voters are being asked to consider supporting Amendment 69, a tax plan that would create a statewide health care system.

Our view:

The risks of Amendment 69 outnumber its benefits, and there are too many unanswered questions about how the system would ultimately impact Colorado’s health care system and its economy.

Amendment 69, also known as ColoradoCare, promises to create a universal health care system in the state by raising $25 billion in taxes to support a program that would need to launch quickly. Despite its noble intent to provide health care for all Coloradans, we can’t get behind the amendment.

Our view:

The risks of Amendment 69 outnumber its benefits, and there are too many unanswered questions about how the system would ultimately impact Colorado’s health care system and its economy.

We acknowledge that health care costs are too high and our current system is less than desirable, but we don’t think Colorado should become the guinea pig and try to be the first state in the nation to tax its citizens to provide an untested system.

The goal of Amendment 69 is a laudable goal but it’s the execution that concerns us. We think it’s too big of a program to get up and running in a short time frame, and the costs associated with it are too high. It is projected the 3.33 percent payroll tax for employees, the 6.67 percent tax on employers and a 10 percent tax on non-payroll income would generate $25 billion, creating a new bureaucracy that would almost double the size of the state’s current budget.

When fully implemented, ColoradoCare would not only finance health care services for all Colorado residents but it would also administer Medicaid and the Children’s Basic Health Plan and pay the medical portion of workers’ compensation benefits — a massive undertaking.

If ColoradoCare passes, it has the potential to strain the current health care system. Amendment 69 could entice people to move to Colorado to access state funded health care without adequately contributing to the taxes that pay for their care. And on the flip side, we think there’s a good chance that retirees and location-neutral business workers would leave Colorado rather than pay a 10 percent tax on their income.

Compounding this issue is the potential that doctors would leave the state due to the uncertainty of the proposed system and reimbursements, and private insurance companies could also choose to do business elsewhere. Our local hospital, Yampa Valley Medical Center, also recently came out against the measure, which we think is telling.

Though it’s been estimated that some businesses would save money under the ColoradoCare system, we believe the tax required of employers would place a heavy burden on small business owners, who already find it difficult to operate a successful business in a mountain town economy, which in turn would negatively affect our local economy.

Supporters of Amendment 69 are passionate about the ballot issue, and we commend them for their efforts, but they’re hard pressed to answer specific questions about how the program would be established so quickly and what happens if the premise is not financially viable.

We’ve been told the amendment is merely an enabling piece of legislation, and the state legislature would have to pass laws during the 2017 session to implement Amendment 69. During this time, individuals would have to maintain their current insurance coverage while also paying taxes to fund ColoradoCare, although at a lower rate, which would place an unfair financial burden on individuals, families and businesses.

This massive program and its accompanying $25 billion budget would be overseen by a 21-member board of trustees, which would first be appointed and then elected. This group of people would be charged with creating and administering a centralized health care system, and its members would control how taxes are spent to implement and operate the system.

This is a huge job, and we have no assurances these board members will have the qualifications to get the job done. Individuals must only be at least 18 years old and reside in the district they seek to represent.

This board would function outside of state government. It would not answer to the governor or the legislature, and there is no provision for recalling individual members, which we find troubling.

And because ColoradoCare would become part of the Colorado Constitution, if the system fails, there is no simple way to fix it. If the money generated by the proposed tax plan is not enough, it would take a vote of the people to raise the taxes needed to support the program, and if voters reject the tax hike, the program becomes insolvent, and then what? Coloradans would be faced with rising health care costs and cuts in their coverage to keep the program running.

In our opinion, the risks of Amendment 69 greatly outweigh the potential benefits. We can’t afford an experiment that would create nation’s highest income tax rate at 14.63 percent, upend the current health care system in Colorado and harm the state’s economy by driving out small businesses.

For all these reasons, we urge a “no” vote on Amendment 69.

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