Calls for Universal Health Care in Colorado and Nation

By Stephanie Carroll Carson
Public News Service - Colorado, June 3, 2013

DENVER -- Efforts toward universal health care in Colorado were highlighted over the weekend at an event in Denver, part of a push to establish a constitutional right to health care in the state.

Appearing at the gathering was Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, who is seeking to build support for his "Medicare for All Act," which proposes health care coverage for the uninsured, particularly those not covered by policies in the Affordable Care Act.

"Because more and more people are asking about this, what we're looking for is a good way to get this through as soon as possible," the veteran lawmaker said.

Also at the Saturday event, a petition drive was launched seeking to put a measure on the Colorado ballot that would establish a state constitutional right to health care.

There are currently 750,000 people in Colorado who do not have health insurance. After the Affordable Care Act is implemented next January, 400,000 will continue to lack coverage. Organizations like Health Care for All Colorado hope the state ballot measure, or the passage of Conyers' bill, can result in coverage for everyone.

According to Donna Smith, the executive director for Health Care for All Colorado, the Affordable Care Act is necessary, but is largely about insurance reform, rather than universal health coverage. Congressman Conyers' legislation provides coverage immediately.

"The moment you're born, you're in, and the moment you die, you're out," she declared. "There's no question about you being covered; you are covered. It's a publicly funded, privately and publicly delivered plan."

The Medicare for All legislation establishes one publicly-owned, nonprofit health insurance plan. It would change the current model of private insurance in the country. Under the new system, private insurance companies would be able to create supplemental policies to cover things like cosmetic procedures not covered by the universal coverage.

Conyers said his legislation is supported by many in the medical field, including the Physicians for a National Health Program.

"The assistance and support and encouragement we get from doctors, health providers, medical scholars and people that work in hospitals is very fundamental to us making this happen as soon as possible," he said.

The Medicare for All Act is currently under review in a House committee.