Fremont County Board of Commissioners against Amendment 69

By Carie Canterbury

The Daily Record

POSTED: 05/11/2016 07:18:36 AM MDT

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday formally took a position in opposition to Amendment 69, a ballot measure that would allow ColoradoCare to contract with health-care providers to pay for certain health care benefits for all Coloradans.

Chairman Ed Norden said the committee formed to oppose the Amendment has been seeking support from elected officials from across the state, and he personally is opposed to the amendment.

Norden said he received emails Monday asking the board to consider delaying taking a position until they are more informed on the potential impacts that could come to Fremont County. About seven citizens echoed the request during the meeting, and five others commended the board for taking the stand.

“Some of the emails we got yesterday said that it would create ColoradoCare and that it would not be government run, that it would be run by 21 appointed people,” Norden said. “If you put Amendment 69 into the Constitution, that’s government run. In the year 2020, those 15 appointed bureaucrats will be replaced with 21 elected people.”

David Higginbotham said universal health care will be inevitable in the 21st century.

“The first line of this initiative states, ‘Shall Colorado raise taxes by $25 billion to provide health care,’ when the actual question should be, ‘Shall all the money we spend on health care go toward health care and not toward profits, in other words, golden parachutes, CEO compensation packages of $60 million a year.”

Pastor Robert Kippley said if the rate of cost increases for premiums, co-insurance and deductible continues on the same trajectory it has the last 20 years, many, if not the majority of individuals and companies will find paying for health care impossible.

“I don’t know if you’re aware of the degree of suffering that our present health-care system has caused the citizens of Fremont County,” he said. “A systemic change is needed.”

He said 62 percent of bankruptcies and 50 percent of home foreclosures are caused by health care expenses. He and Donna Young said it is estimated that Fremont County would save $1 million in what currently is paid for county employees and jail inmates by implementing ColoradoCare.

“My concern is potential impact on businesses and small businesses,” Norden said. “Some of these employers in Colorado say they can’t survive and will pack up and leave; you can analyze potential costs of what it might save, but what’s the cost to lost jobs.”

Jody DeCook said the health-care system needs fixed, but Amendment 69 is not the way to go.

“We legalized marijuana, it had an effect, a lot of people came to the state because of it,” he said. “If this bill passes, it is my understanding that you have one year of residency and then you are qualified, so the message goes out to 49 other states just go to Colorado if you have a money problem or a health care problem and you’ll be taken care of, no matter how much you make. That is going to overload the system.”

Commissioner Debbie Bell said Amendment 69 won’t allow Coloradans freedom of choice.

“I believe that Colorado was used as a guinea pig state for marijuana and you can see what that has done not only to the state, but to the county, our communities and to this board,” she said. “To know that happened to us as a state by outside interests breaks my heart. I don’t want to see Colorado be a guinea pig for health care, as well. Amendment 69 does not give us that freedom of choice, and I am completely against it.”

Commissioner Tim Payne said it concerns him that voters won’t have an opportunity to make decisions, and if the amendment is written into the Constitution, it takes away the ability of legislators to tweak it if there is an issue.

“Once it’s in the Colorado Constitution, it’s set in stone,” he said. “That’s been proven it’s not a good idea.”