Years before Sen. Bernie Sanders touted single-payer healthcare as a core issue in his insurgent presidential campaign, a Democratic state lawmaker in Colorado was perennially introducing legislation for a single-payer system in the state.
That legislation, backed by state Sen. Irene Aguilar, a physician, never gained much traction. But last year, its supporters collected more than 150,000 signatures to bring the plan before voters directly on the Nov. 8 ballot. “It grew out of frustration and out of painful awareness that people are suffering, and they don't need to be because we're spending more than we need to,” said Lyn Gullette, director of operations for the campaign behind the ballot initiative, which would amend the state's constitution.
Sanders, who defeated Hillary Clinton by nearly 19 points in the state's Democratic caucus, has endorsed and campaigned for the measure. But a September poll suggested just 27% of voters were likely to support it.
The plan, which will appear on the Colorado statewide ballot as Amendment 69, would establish a universal healthcare system that would finance healthcare services for most Colorado residents under a federal waiver available to states under the Affordable Care Act. The program, christened ColoradoCare, would be funded by payroll taxes rather than insurance premiums, and beneficiaries would have no deductibles and no copays for preventive and primary care.
Advocacy groups representing hospitals and health insurers are warning the plan would upend the coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act, require unsustainable tax increases and undermine competition and patient choice while failing to fix the underlying drivers of healthcare costs.