T.R. Reid is a nationally known journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker who has brought attention to the need for health care reform in America via the PBS Frontline specials “Sick Around the World” and “India: A Second Opinion,” his 2009 book “The Healing of America,” and PBS’ “U.S. Health Care: The Good News,” which features communities such as Grand Junction, Colorado that get health care right—i.e. universally available and affordable. His current book on the U.S. tax code is due out in 2016. Reid served as an international correspondent for the Washington Post, is well known for his light-hearted commentaries on NPR’s Morning Edition, and is in-demand nationally as a speaker and health care expert. His most recent tour of Oregon netted wide media attention for that state’s efforts toward universal health care. Reid serves as a volunteer spokesperson for ColoradoCareYES and as President of the Board of the Directors of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care.
DENVER — Colorado is the highest state in the nation — in more ways than one.
With 52 peaks over 14,000 feet, Colorado has the highest average altitude. And with the nation’s first successful ballot campaign for legalized marijuana, Colorado showed other states how to move beyond the “Reefer Madness” mindset and terminate a fruitless attempt at Prohibition.
Now Coloradans are pushing ahead on another leading policy initiative — a universal health care system covering every resident. The Secretary of State has certified a proposed initiative for the 2016 ballot that will create a universal cooperative plan called ColoradoCare. That leaves supporters facing two key challenges:
1) The signature drive to get the initiative on the ballot, and
2) The campaign to get it passed.
For both of these efforts, Colorado’s universal coverage advocates need help from Daily Kos readers.
The efforts of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care and its campaign arm, ColoradoCareYES, are based on a simple proposition: The United States should, and could, provide health care for everybody — but the polarized politicians in Washington, D.C. are not going to get this done.
Instead, the US will get to universal coverage state-by-state. A couple of states will devise systems — probably single-payer plans — that work, and the other states will follow. This has been the template for some of the most important policy reforms in American history: female suffrage, the minimum wage, progressive income tax, same-sex marriage, etc.
All of the world’s industrialized democracies provide high-quality health care for everybody — all of them, that is, except the world’s richest country, the USA. ObamaCare has significantly expanded coverage — but it falls well short of the goal. If ObamaCare works perfectly, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it will still leave 31 million people uninsured in 2020 — including some 400,000 in Colorado.
This is a national disgrace. And Coloradans have decided not to tolerate it any longer.
The ColoradoCare plan is based on a proposal from State Sen. Irene Aguilar, a physician who is recognized as the leading voice on health policy in state government. Once it became clear that Aquilar’s bill couldn’t get through the divided legislature, health care activists turned it into a ballot initiative and started their campaign.
ColoradoCare creates a cooperative board that will provide health insurance for every state resident; for those over 65, it will provide Medicare supplemental coverage. Every worker and employer will pay into the plan — but the cost will be much lower than the insurance premiums they pay today. Private health insurers spend about 20% of premium income on paperwork, marketing, executive salaries, etc. ColoradoCare has been designed to work like Medicare, where such administrative costs eat up only 4% of premium income.
The plan will cover every doctor, hospital, chiropractor, physical therapist, etc. “We are never going to use the “narrow network” gimmick that insurance companies have devised to limit patient choice,” said campaign director Lyn Gullette. “Under ColoradoCare, the patient — not the insurance company — will choose the doctor and the hospital.”
ColoradoCare got its name because it is not ObamaCare — but the gets a significant political boost from the Affordable Care Act. Under Sec. 1332 of the ACA, known as the “state opt-out clause,” any state with a system of its own that’s as good as ObamaCare is free of the mandates and penalties imposed by the health reform law.
In a purple state — Colorado’s legislature and Congressional delegation are divided nearly equally between the two parties – this gives the backer of the plan a three-part argument that can appeal to all voters. They note that ColoradoCare will:
—save billions in administrative cost, and
—get Colorado out of ObamaCare.
These three arguments combine to make a forceful case that appeals to both Democrats and Republicans. Backers have also learned that voters love the fact that ColoradoCare was “designed in Colorado, not in Washington, D.C.” Supporters have stayed away from the term “single payer,” but in fact ColoradoCare will offer the same benefits — equal access, and low administrative costs — that mark single-payer plans like Medicare.
But the two statewide campaigns — first the signature drive, and then the effort to pass the initiative — require a lot of money. More money than health reform advocates in Colorado can provide themselves.
“That’s why we’re asking Daily Kos readers to step up and help us get this proposal approved,” said Dr. Ivan Miller, a key architect of ColoradoCare.
“We need 99,000 signatures by October 15 to get this on the ballot. We have an army of volunteers on the job, and we’ve hired a professional firm to help. All that costs money,” Miller says. “Since this initiative can show the country how to offer universal coverage at reasonable cost, we are looking for financial help from health care reform activists around the country.”
“The fatcats lining their pockets with our health insurance premiums are going to fight us,” noted Gullette, the campaign manager. “So we ask you to go to www.ColoradoCareYES.CO to help collect signatures, to donate money, to participate in the social change of a lifetime.”