Voters to decide ColoradoCare in November

By Anne C. Courtright, M.D.
The Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain, Jan. 30, 2016

I would like to set the record straight regarding the ColoradoCare Amendment 69, which will be on the November 2016 ballot.

The movement for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All formally began in 1987 with the establishment of Physicians for a National Health Program, because a couple of young doctors were irate over the contrast between the lovely one- and two-bed rooms, many of which were empty, in the private hospital to which they were assigned in their training, contrasted with the waiting list and overcrowded wards with multiple beds in the Community Hospital, where they also worked.

State Sen. Irene Aguilar’s Amendment 69 is a variation of but a continuation of the work that Health Care for All Colorado has been doing in Colorado, since July 15, 2003. It is a movement to get affordable, quality health care available to all of the people of Colorado.

HCAC does not like to see people die or become disabled because they cannot afford to get needed health care or, all too often, go bankrupt when they do. Our current system is not working well.

The ColoradoCare Plan would be financed by a government-collected, designated fund, just as Medicare is nationally. Initially, it would be administered by an appointed board, which would be replaced by an elected board for the long term.

HCAC submitted a true single-payer plan to the 208 Commission in 2007. It was found by the Lewin Commission to be the only plan submitted that really covered everyone in the state, and it would have saved the state $4 billion a year. However, it was not recommended to the Legislature by the commission because it “was too disruptive to the present system.” Do you suppose that could have represented the influence of the health insurance companies?

The ColoradoCare plan would replace the Affordable Care Act in Colorado, which the ACA allows, as long as the plan provides care “as good as or better than the ACA.” Amendment 69 would undoubtedly do so and with a far less convoluted system. It would provide everyone in the state affordable, quality care and cost less than we are currently spending. It would not replace Medicare or the VA, but it would serve as a Medicare supplemental plan.

And, yes, it would likely mean the end of for-profit health insurance companies in the state except for cosmetic surgery, high-cost end of life care and such extra things that Amendment 69 would indeed, not cover. But all necessary health care would be covered, and you would no longer have the cost of your health insurance premiums, prescription drugs, deductibles and most co-pays.

Eighty percent of Coloradans would pay less overall for their medical care under Amendment 69 than they do now. There would be no more Medicaid or CHIP, people dying or becoming disabled because they could not afford needed treatment, or going bankrupt all too often if they got the needed care.

Rather than bankrupting the state, it would make Colorado one of the healthiest states in the union and one in which providers would enjoy practicing medicine, rather than having to spend half of their time fighting with the insurance companies over needed care or payments.

Providers, including hospitals, would save a great deal of money from the reduced need for staff in their billing departments, so costs would go down, not up. Individuals could go to the provider and hospital of their choice.

Providers and hospitals would send a simple bill to the elected board of trustees and be reimbursed. No longer would one third of our health care dollar in Colorado, go to administrative costs, huge CEO salaries and shareholder profits.

The only thing that would be better than Amendment 69, would be Expanded and Improved Medicare for All in the United States. Tell U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton to sign on to Rep. John Conyers’ bill, HR 676, which would make that happen. That is what we really need and HCAC and PNHP are working toward.

Amendment 69 would be a step in that direction, and Colorado would have the distinction of being the first state in the union to actually establish a single-payer type of plan. Groups in many other states are also working in this direction.

Anne C. Courtright is a psychiatrist, now retired from the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.

PNHP note: For an analysis of ColoradoCare by Drs. Ida Hellander, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, click here.