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Report causes clash over single-payer health care stability

Independent analysis says system would not cover costs
Colorado state Senator Dr. Irene Aguilar, right, who is a physician at Denver Health, helps deliver more than 156,000 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State in October to put the single-payer health care question on the November 2016 ballot. Proponents of the measure are defending its revenue projections after a study by the Colorado Health Institute, an independent group, determined the measure would fail to cover its costs.

DENVER – Proponents of a $25 billion single-payer health care ballot effort say the proposal would be adequately funded, despite an independent study that said otherwise.

ColoradoCare supporters held a news conference Tuesday in Denver, stating that their analysis shows the proposal would produce a surplus of $2 billion in the first year.

Proponents believe a study by the Colorado Health Institute overlooked aspects of Amendment 69. The institute’s analysis earlier this month concluded that ColoradoCare would struggle to cover costs.

Amendment 69 would eliminate private insurance for a 10 percent “premium tax” so that the state can cover health expenses. Employers would share employees’ costs.

Proponents say the institute’s study failed to account for federal Medicaid dollars, saying that the exclusion accounts for a 37 percent reduction in federal funding, which would not happen under Amendment 69.

“Amendment 69 requires the state to maintain its current funding of Medicaid, including the state match for Medicaid expansion and CHP+,” said Ivan Miller, executive director of the ColoradoCare campaign. “The federal government matches all state funding sources for Medicaid.”

But Michele Lueck, president and chief executive of the Colorado Health Institute, pointed out that while Amendment 69 calls for a full transfer of Medicaid funds to the state, the federal government is not required to follow state law.

“Our policy experts advise that only some Medicaid funds will be available to finance ColoradoCare,” Lueck said. “This is based on years of analyzing when and how federal grants and waivers are awarded.”

The institute said that even if ColoradoCare received all the Medicaid money, there would be a long-term structural gap resulting in a deficit, which would require ColoradoCare to ask voters for more money or cut benefits.

“We are confident in our financial analysis of Amendment 69 and the conclusions we have drawn from it,” Lueck added.

The institute’s independent report was not the first problem for ColoradoCare proponents. The issue has split Democrats, with ProgressNow Colorado opposing the effort, along with NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

The divide continued on Tuesday, with Sen. Jeanne Nicholson and Rep. Jonathan Singer – both Democrats – speaking on behalf of the measure, while Democratic leaders, including House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, continue to express concerns.

The rift has been a blessing for Republicans and groups that oppose single-payer health care, as disunity within the Democratic Party could sink the measure.

Proponents remain optimistic, however, that voters will see the value in switching to a single-payer system. They say that in 10 years, ColoradoCare’s spending would be $2.7 billion less than the current insurance industry’s system. They add that insurance rates would continue to skyrocket for consumers under the current model.

Proponents acknowledge that there could be a deficit over the next decade, but they say the “worst case scenario” would mean a projected deficit of $700 million; without any increase in the proposed tax rate.

“ColoradoCare is designed to utilize federal waivers and has safeguards built in to Amendment 69 to protect it from the budget deficits that would result without the federal funding,” Miller said. “Coloradans can take comfort in remembering that if the federal waivers are not granted during the build-up to implementation, the language of the amendment instructs ColoradoCare to ‘shut down operations and restore unused funds’ to the taxpayers.”


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