'ColoradoCare' to appear on 2016 ballot

Statewide universal healthcare on 2016 ballot. 9NEWS at 11/9/15.

KUSA - In addition to voting for president, in 2016, Coloradans will also get to vote on a statewide universal healthcare system for Colorado.

Supporters want to create a system they call "ColoradoCare." It's the first initiative to qualify for 2016's ballot as Amendment 69. The secretary of state certified the 158,831 signatures on Monday.

The idea would be to get a waiver from Obamacare and have the state provide health coverage instead. It's bound to be a serious political fight.

Not only does the amendment threaten health insurance companies, it would also use a hefty increase in payroll taxes to fund the system.

WHAT'S THE IDEA?

The basic idea is to scrap the current system Colorado uses to pay for healthcare. ColoradoCare would replace all private health plans offered by employers and the state healthcare exchange.

It would also replace Medicaid and supplemental Medicare plans, but not coverage offered by the VA.

Supporters envision covering all Coloradans with terms that are better than platinum plans offered under the Affordable Care Act.

They've built into the amendment language to prohibit deductibles for patients to meet. There would also be no copays for visits to a patient's primary care doctor.

Coloradans would receive coverage after making the state their primary place of residence for one year, with the option for newcomers to the state to pay a premium and buy in.

The plan replaces the finance of healthcare, but supporters aim to keep providers in the private sector.

IT TAKES A BIG TAX INCREASE TO DO

To fund this statewide plan, supporters plan a tax increase that could objectively be described as enormous.

At an estimated $25 billion, the new taxes would raise more than double all of the taxes currently going to the state's general fund.

Controversially, the tax would be charged on employment and income.

Employees would see 3.33 percent come out of their paychecks, with their employers paying an additional 6.67 percent behind-the-scenes to create an effective 10 percent tax on payroll.

Non-employment income such as capital gains would be subject to a 10 percent state tax.

WHAT WOULD IT COST ME?

For working Coloradans, the measure amounts to an effective 72 percent increase to income taxes.

But it also would eliminate the need to pay health insurance premiums, which means some people would save money and others would pay more than they do today.

The tax would amount to $26 per paycheck for a worker making $20,000 a year. It's $64 per paycheck off a $50,000 salary. And it's $192 every other week on $150,000 annual earnings.

Those whose earnings come from other sources than a employer's paycheck would pay more since they're on the hook for the whole 10 percent.

There would be a cap on the tax for the wealthy. In the beginning, the tax would only apply to the first $350,000 of earning for single filers and $450,000 for joint filers, with those amounts set to be adjusted annually for inflation.

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

ColoradoCare would be an independent governmental body in Colorado. At first, a temporary board appointed by the governor and legislature would get things going.

Later, Coloradans would elect the board from 21 different districts around the state.

Importantly, the board would have the power to increase the tax rates as needed one per year, giving ColoradoCare an exception to the restrictions on tax hikes in the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR.)

The ordinary caps on the growth of the overall program would not be subject to the caps in TABOR.

In a manner similar to TABOR, "members" of ColoradoCare (a broader group than the general electorate) would need to approve any increase.

A "member" is defined not as a registered voter, but rather as "a beneficiary who is at least eighteen years of age and whose primary residence has been in Colorado for at least one continuous year."

That group could include people who are not eligible to register to vote in normal elections in Colorado, such as felons.

Supporters this language is meant to replicate the structure of a healthcare co-op with the added ability to vote on approval of new premiums.

(© 2015 KUSA)


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