Prominent Democrats speak out against ColoradoCare proposal

A number of prominent Democrats and progressive leaders announced their opposition to the ColoradoCare single-payer health-insurance ballot measure on Wednesday, dealing a potential blow to a constitutional amendment that earlier garnered the support in the platform of the state Democratic party.

The opposing elected Democrats ran the ideological gamut from Sen. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge and Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp of Arvada — often considered the two most pro-business Democrats in the Legislature — to noted liberal voices such as Reps. Daniel Kagan of Cherry Hills Village, who actually donated to the ColoradoCare campaign last year, and Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood. House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, also came out against the ColoradoCare ballot measure, also known as Amendment 69, as did the liberal activist group ProgressNow Colorado.

Among the reasons for opposing it included the difficulty of imposing a universal health care system in a single state to its potential cost overruns, predicted recently by the nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute.

“Thanks to Obamacare via the state’s visionary Medicaid expansion and the launch of Connect for Health Colorado [insurance exchange], we have cut the uninsured rate in half in our state,” said Ian Silverii, ProgressNow executive director. “Instead of abandoning the progress we’ve made in Colorado in recent years, we need to focus on protecting the gains we’ve already made — and building on that progress instead of starting from scratch.”

ColoradoCare proposes to impose a 10 percent payroll tax and a 10 percent non-payroll tax to raise more than $25 billion a year and create a universal-care system that would abolish private insurance and supplement public insurance such as Medicare and Tricare in Colorado.

A business-led coalition of organizations has been raising significant amounts of money to fight the proposal, arguing it will drive businesses and doctors out of the state.

Backers last week had crowed about receiving the endorsement of the Boulder County Democratic Party, joining endorsements from Democratic parties in counties such as Arapahoe, Denver and Gilpin. They also have pointed repeatedly to news about shakeups in the current health-insurance system, including large projected increases in individual policies by several insurers and news that insurers are pulling out of the health-care exchanges across the country.

“The swelling ranks of grass-roots support for ColoradoCare is stunning,” said Owen Perkins, communications director for the ColoradoCareYes campaign.

But Democratic state Sen. Irene Aguilar of Denver, one of the primary authors of ColoradoCare, seemed taken aback by the opposition from some members of her party on Wednesday. She wrote to the website ColoradoPols that ProgressNow had not even responded to her request to speak to its board about the ballot measure.

Ed Sealover covers government, health care, tourism, airlines, hospitality and restaurants for the Denver Business Journal and writes for the “Capitol Business” blog. Phone: 303–803–9229.

Originally published at www.bizjournals.com on August 17, 2016.