Health insurance overhaul poised for heated debate on November ballot

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DENVER -- Republicans want to dismantle Obamacare, but it turns out some Democrats in Colorado want to as well. Not because it goes too far, but because it doesn’t go far enough.

Amendment 69 will appear on the November ballot and will ask voters whether they want to create a quasi-run government health insurance group.

The Colorado Care Campaign calls for a 21-member board to be elected from across the state. It would be paid for by an increase in payroll taxes by employees and employers as well as increases in investment income taxes as well. How much you pay is determined by how much you make.

“When is a tax increase not a tax increase? When it saves you money,” said State Sen. Irene Aguilar, who is a doctor and leader behind the campaign.

Aguilar believes that by having a not-for-profit health insurance group created, it will ultimately save taxpayers money despite the sharp increase in taxes. It is estimated to cost around $38 billion to run.

No premiums, co-pays or deductibles would exist under Colorado Care, Aguilar said.

“I guarantee that for 80 percent of people, it will be cheaper under Colorado Care,” Aguilar said.

One of the individuals in support of the plan is Nathan Wilkes, whose son has a rare blood clotting disease. He said dealing with traditional for-profit health insurance companies is frustrating and expensive.

“There is so much bureaucracy and overhead in the current system,” Wilkes said.

But opposition to this plan is vast.

The Koch brothers are already out with a commercial and a group Coloradans for Coloradans has formed to campaign against Amendment 69.

“This plan would double the state budget,” said Sean Duffy, a spokesman with the No on 69 campaign.

He said hospitals, insurance, groups and even Democrats like Gov. John Hickenlooper are opposed.

“They are talking about creating a company with your tax dollars that will be bigger than McDonald's or Nike,” Duffy said.

While the State Democratic Party endorsed Colorado Care in its official party platform, Hickenlooper released a statement:

“Over the last several years, Colorado has made great strides in expanding access to affordable, quality health care, while driving innovation and cost savings for taxpayers. Our reforms are just beginning to bear fruit and it would be premature to dramatically remake our health care system at this time. We welcome the robust conversation about the future of health care in Colorado that this initiative helps inspire. Ultimately, it will be up to voters to decide on the merits of this initiative.”

Colorado would be the first state in the country to institute such a health insurance overhaul.