Lawmaker wants Colorado to opt out of Obamacare — for universal coverage
The federal Affordable Care Act has reduced the percentage of uninsured people in Colorado from 14.3 percent two years ago to 6.7 percent today, according to the most recent statistics provided by the Colorado Health Institute.
However, much of that reduction is a result of more people meeting the poverty guidelines to enroll in an expanded, but often inefficient and publicly expensive Medicaid system, says state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, a longtime primary care physician who is leading the push for a universal health-care system in Colorado.
Also concerning, she said, is the percentage of the state’s residents who are considered “underinsured,” meaning they have basic insurance but still can’t afford more comprehensive coverage.
That number has actually grown in those same two years from about 14 percent to more than 16 percent, according to the same Health Institute survey conducted this year, Aguilar told members of the Carbondale Rotary Club on Wednesday.
That number is even higher in the resort counties, including Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle, where the percentage of people considered underinsured has grown from 13 percent in 2013 when the major provisions of Obamacare went into effect, to more than 17 percent today, Aguilar said.
“The result of people being underinsured is that they still don’t get the medical care that they need,” Aguilar said.
That’s one of the reasons she has been pushing for state voters to consider “Colorado Care,” a universal system that would guarantee coverage for every Colorado resident equivalent to the Platinum-plus plan available under Obamacare.
Petitioners are working to collect the more than 98,500 signatures from registered Colorado voters needed by Oct. 23 to place the question on the November 2016 ballot.
If unsuccessful in the first attempt, organizers would have another shot to submit petitions next year to be on the same ballot, Aguilar said.
Colorado Care would impose a new 6.67 percent employer payroll tax and 3.33 percent income tax for employees, generating $25 billion each year to run the system. The taxes would be in place of the current health-care premiums and deductible costs under Obamacare, which is administered by the Connect for Health Colorado system.
The law allows states to opt out of the federal system if they adopt their own, as long as it meets the same basic provisions of Obamacare.
For someone earning $50,000 a year, the new Colorado initiative would cost an employer $278 per month, while employees would pay $139 per month for health coverage.
Self-employed individuals would pay less than 10 percent of their income for coverage. With existing federal and state income tax deductions, that rate could be as little as 5.6 percent, Aguilar explained.
Aguilar said other local, state and national statistics have prompted her to make health care her signature issue in the Legislature, where she chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Since Obamacare came into being, the percentage of employer-sponsored health insurance plans has actually gone down in the resort areas from more than 45 percent of all insurance plans in 2013 to 43.8 percent this year, she said.
At the same time, the percentage of people on Medicaid has gone up from 11.2 percent to 15.5 percent in the resort counties, and the percentage of uninsured people remains relatively high at 11.7 percent, Aguilar said.
In Colorado, according to ACA projections, out of $50.5 billion expected to be spent on health care next year, $15.6 billion, or 31 percent, will go toward administrative costs.
It’s also estimated that the United States wastes $750 billion annually on such things as unnecessary health services, insurance and bureaucratic costs, inefficient care and errors, excessive prices, fraud and missed prevention opportunities, she said.
“That’s what Colorado Care is all about,” Aguilar said, offering that the new initiative would reduce health-care spending in the state by an estimated $4.5 billion annually while increasing coverage and extending it to every Colorado resident.
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UPDATE: Garfield County authorities have identified the woman whose body was found north of Rifle near Colorado Highway 13 last week as Sunny Morrisette, age 38, of Rifle.