Coalition launches opposition to universal health-care proposal

By Charles Ashby 
Thursday, January 28, 2016

DENVER — A bipartisan coalition of business, civic and political types launched an effort Thursday to oppose a November ballot measure that would create a universal health care system in Colorado.

The group, called Coloradans for Coloradans, says the proposal would double the size of the state’s budget and place new burdens on taxpayers.

It includes such people as Republican Treasurer Walker Stapleton and former Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, both of whom are serving as co-chairmen of the coalition.

“While I realize that there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding health care coverage by many Coloradans, this is absolutely not the answer,” Stapleton said. “This will result in $25 billion in unfunded liabilities in Colorado, and the people who will bear the brunt of this cost will be our employers, especially our sole proprietors, small-business owners and the generators of our economic growth.”

Under the measure, known as Amendment 69, employees and employers no longer would get their own health insurance plans, or pay premiums, deductibles or co-pays.

The plan would include medical, mental health and dental coverage for every Colorado resident.

Instead, it would be paid for from a 3.33 percent take in payroll taxes that employees already pay, and 6.67 percent in payroll taxes that employers pay, which supporters said is far less than both currently pay now.

That means individuals who make $50,000 a year, for example, would pay $139 a month through their payroll taxes, and employers would contribute $278 a month, with self-employed workers paying 10 percent of their net incomes.

Those proponents say businesses and individuals would end up paying less then they do now for health care coverage.

Opponents, however, say the idea would cost about $25 billion a year, roughly the same size as the state’s current budget, and impose a 10 percent tax on employers and their workers.

They also said it could drive out good medical professionals.

“Won’t want to risk our access to quality health care, our income or our state’s economy on this experiment,” said Kelly Brough, president and chief executive officer of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Others said the measure would be placed into the state’s Constitution, making it difficult for lawmakers to tweak it if problems occur.