The people behind a constitutional amendment to give all Coloradans healthcare say a study showing their plan wouldn’t work is wrong.
“The Colorado Health Institute study, in my opinion, was very good in terms of being thorough and thoughtful … However, I strongly disagree with their conclusions,” former state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (D-Black Hawk) said. “There is no evidence to suggest that Amendment 69 would not be financially sustainable.”
Amendment 69 would replace most private health insurance with a single insurer called ColoradoCare.
The state would collect taxes from Coloradans and employers, but that wouldn’t be enough money to cover all the costs. Colorado Care would also need money from the federal government.
And that’s where the two groups differ.
CHI’s study estimated the federal government would give ColoradoCare billions less than the yes campaign projected.
The debate is over hospital provider fees, which is money the federal government gives states to help hospitals cover some of the losses they incur from treating Medicaid patients.
ColoradoCare says it would get about $2.4 billion from these waivers, and CHI says it wouldn’t.
The Yes campaign says the federal government has a pattern of giving waivers to states that are trying new healthcare ideas.
“I can say that with great confidence because the federal government has been very supportive of state innovation,” Nicholson said.
But CHI President Michele Lueck disagreed.
“Our policy experts advise that only some Medicaid funds will be available to finance ColoradoCare,” Lueck said in a statement. “This is based on years of analyzing when and how federal grants and waivers are awarded.”
It’s a crucial component of the plan because it determines whether ColoradoCare would have a budget surplus or a budget deficit during its first year of operation.
The YES campaign also attacked the idea that, even with the federal funding, the program would slide deeper into debt each year.
CHI's computer model also projected that rising healthcare costs would create a budget shortfall of $7.8 billion by 2028.
ColoradoCare’s worst case scenario, however, shows a deficit of $700 million in 2028.
The difference comes down to whether you believe universal coverage can lower healthcare costs.
The Yes Campaign says that even opponents of universal health care concede that it would lower costs by half a percent a year.
But Lueck says his institute’s analysis used the best evidence and “most realistic assumptions.”