Guest opinion: ColoradoCare is a real opportunity |

Guest opinion: ColoradoCare is a real opportunity

Jack Westfall, M.D.

Jack Westfall, MD

I am proud to support ColoradoCare, Amendment 69, to provide universal health care for everyone in the state. Every Coloradan deserves to see a primary care provider, visit with a counselor, see their specialist, obtain necessary medications for their illness and take their kids to get immunizations or antibiotics for strep throat.

As a primary care physician, I know that access to primary care improves health. As a former nonprofit insurance chief medical officer, I understand the insurance industry, how to save money while providing excellent care, and just how broken the current system is.

ColoradoCare is a real opportunity that deserves honest conversation rather than fear-mongering and political shenanigans.

The claim that Amendment 69 adds $25 billion of costs to Colorado is simply not true. Amendment 69 shifts the way health care is paid for. Yes, an employment tax will be taken from just about everyone who gets a paycheck in Colorado. But, the employer and employee will no longer have insurance premiums to pay. Most folks will pay less than they do now. Some folks with higher incomes may pay more. But we all pay extra health insurance costs right now to subsidize exorbitant insurance executive salaries, profits that are sent to shareholders on Wall Street, and to pay for ER and hospital costs for people who don’t have insurance and primary care.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported the average cost of health insurance in Colorado this year is $5,800 for a single employee; over $13,000 for a family, plus the vast majority of employer insurance has another $1,000 deductible you must pay. So you will be paying for health insurance and health care one way or the other. Amendment 69 changes how health care is paid for so that everyone in the state gets covered.

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A recent Colorado Health Institute study on the financial impact of Amendment 69 on Colorado health care costs showed that ColoradoCare would save $2.7 billion over the next 10 years. To say this another way: Even CHI’s conservative estimate shows that the current health insurance mess will outspend ColoradoCare by billions of dollars and still leave hundreds of thousands of Coloradoans without care.

In year one, CHI’s analysis found that Colorado would spend $700 million less while at the same time covering everyone in the state. That’s a headline. By the way, the Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform (the 208 Commission) discovered the same thing back in 2008: Universal health care saves money.

(CHI’s analysis had some problems. For more on that, visit

ColoradoCare ensures primary care services to all — care shown in innumerable studies to improve health outcomes and lower costs. ColoradoCare provides a solution to the unsustainable increases in health care costs.

As the CMO for the Colorado HealthOP, I helped negotiate significant savings for our 80,000 members. From pharmaceuticals to devices to procedures, we were able to negotiate national and local discounts of 10, 20, even 50 percent. Having the bulk of the Colorado market will allow for substantial influence on costs of drugs, devices and procedures.

ColoradoCare will pay providers what they deserve: good pay for quality care. However, unfettered profits to for-profit hospitals, stockbrokers and shareholders will decrease.

Amendment 69’s opponents say it costs too much. Yet ColoradoCare saves money while ensuring every child has access to primary care and preventive health care; providing medications to thousands of patients with diabetes and arthritis and cystic fibrosis and cancer; and caring for everyone in the state.

Instead of telling my friends, neighbors, colleagues, co-workers and even strangers that their health just costs too much, I’ll tell them I voted for their access to health care.

ColoradoCare, created when Colorado passes Amendment 69, will cover everyone, pay providers good pay for good care and save Colorado billions.

For the first time in my life I get to vote for universal health care. I can hardly wait.

Jack Westfall is a family doctor and the former chief medical officer of Colorado Health Op. He serves on the board of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care. He lives in Greenwood Village.

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