Health Care Industry Moves Swiftly to Stop Colorado’s “Single Payer” Ballot Measure

By Lee Fang
The Intercept, April 22, 2016

The campaign in Colorado to create the nation’s first state-based “single payer” health insurance system, providing universal coverage and replacing insurance premiums with higher taxes, has barely begun.

But business interests in Colorado are not taking anything for granted, and many of the largest lobbying groups around the country and in the state are raising funds to defeat Amendment 69, the single-payer ballot question going before voters this November.

The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, a national trade group, is mobilizing its member companies to defeat single payer in Colorado. “The council urges Coloradans to protect employer-provided insurance and oppose Proposition 69,” the CIAB warns. The group dispatched Steptoe & Johnson, a lobbying firm it retains, to analyze the bill.

Lobby groups that represent major for-profit health care interests in Colorado, including hospitals and insurance brokers, are similarly mobilizing against Amendment 69. The Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry — a trade group led in part by HCA HealthOne, a subsidiary of HCA, one of the largest private hospital chains in the country — is soliciting funds to defeat single payer. The business coalition to defeat the measure also includes the state’s largest association of health insurance brokers.

I asked Sean Duffy, a spokesperson for “Coloradans for Coloradans,” an ad hoc coalition against the single-payer ballot measure, how the state should address high health care costs and those struggling to afford health insurance premiums.

“We are focused on sharing with Coloradans the numerous questions, ambiguities, and concerns with Amendment 69,” said Duffy. He noted that “motivations for universal coverage are shared by many in Colorado” but that making Colorado a “one-state experiment, and the cost of doubling our state budget, potentially diminishing the accessibility and quality of care and creating an unaccountable, massive bureaucracy is just not a good idea for Colorado.”

As other states consider proposals to lower costs and expand coverage, health care interests keen to protect some of the largest profit margins in the economy will be sure to mobilize quickly to snuff them out.

https://theintercept.com/2016/04/22/colorad-single-payer/

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MSNBC’s Chris Hayes interviews reporter Lee Fang (4 minutes)

http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/co-could-be-first-state-with-single-payer-care-672121411514

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Email message

From T. R. Reid, author of The Healing of America
April 21, 2016

(excerpts)

As you know, there’s a citizens’ initiative on the ballot in Colorado this November to create a state-specific plan that will cover everybody, eliminate deductibles, and let the patient, not the insurance company, choose the doctor, chiropractor, hospital, etc. If “ColoradoCare” passes, it can be a model and an incentive for other states where people like you are working to get health care for all.

I’m happy to report that our early polls show us ahead statewide.  I’m unhappy to tell you that our lead is not big enough to withstand the expected onslaught from our opponents. The insurance companies have funded a huge “No” campaign. The Koch Brothers are already running TV ads that say for-profit insurance is the ideal way to pay for health care.

So we need help. We need money…

http://coloradocareyes.co

Without additional enabling federal legislation, Colorado is not able to enact a bona fide single payer system. However, their ballot measure – Amendment 69, ColoradoCare – would improve efficiency, equity and coverage through the health care financing system in their state. Strong opposition is expected since ColoradoCare could be disruptive to some of the well-financed stakeholders, especially the private insurance industry.

The advocates of ColoradoCare are now seeking support for their effort (link above). It will be difficult to educate the public on the facts behind their reform proposal. Even when saturated with facts, the public often remains dubious because of the prevailing anti-government and anti-tax rhetoric. It is a massive project to convert the majority of the voters into passionate supporters of such a cause.

In the meantime, the opponents know that their task does not involve educating the public on the facts. They do not have to engage the other side in a information battle over the truth. They merely have to appeal to the passion of the voters. Simple rhetorical soundbites are usually enough to convince the voters that they do not have to waste their time studying some complicated government scheme in order to know how to vote on it. Just look at some of the rhetoric of the opposition group, Coloradans for Coloradans: “doubling the state budget,” “diminishing accessibility and quality,” and “creating an unaccountable, massive bureaucracy.” Who would support that? No need to try to find out the truth.

This is not just theoretical, as single payer activists supporting ballot measures in California and Oregon can attest to. In both cases, early polling was favorable, as it is now in Colorado. But closer to election time, intensive campaigns were launched by the opponents using simplistic sound bites and slogans, and the results were a disaster. California’s Proposition 186 lost by a 3 to 1 margin and Oregon’s Measure 23 lost by 4 to 1.

So what should we do? I have three suggestions.

1.  Contribute to their effort in any way you can. (Today I made a donation through their website.)

2.  If the effort should fail (and I hate to say that), then be sure that everyone understands that this was not a failure of single payer, especially since it is not even a bona fide single payer proposal. Rather it will have been a failure in mobilizing a social movement.

3.  Above all, do not let up in the least in your advocacy for a single payer national health program – an improved Medicare for all. That is the ultimate goal, and it could be accomplished in a single step without having to first enact compromised systems in several states. Difficult? Of course. But, in spite of many attempts, how many states have enacted single payer? In this age of advanced communications, mobilizing a social movement on a national basis makes more sense than trying to do it in selected individual states.

(ColoradoCare is not a project of PNHP since we are a single issue organization supporting a single payer national health program. But most members are individually very supportive of the Colorado effort as a beneficial interim measure to fill in until we can enact a national Medicare for all program.)