DENVER - The House has given initial approval to a single-payer health-care plan, but the bill's long-term prognosis is not certain.
House Bill 1273 passed on a voice vote Monday evening. It will need to pass one more recorded vote to get out of the House. Four Democrats and two Republicans were absent Monday.
The bill, by Fort Collins Democrat John Kefalas, sets up a 23-member commission to design a universal health-insurance system.
"Our current health-care system is not well," Kefalas said. "Our current health-care system is unsustainable, with the cost of health care and the numbers of the uninsured rising dramatically."
To fix the problems, Kefalas envisions a "single-payer" system that would replace today's private insurance system. His bill sets up the Colorado Health Care Authority, which would design a new health-insurance system. The Legislature would have to approve the change in a later year.
However, Kefalas' bill does not include funding for the authority, meaning it would have to rely on private donations to function.
Opponents warned against government-run health insurance.
"This is a radical change to health care in Colorado," said Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Colorado Springs. "We would be the only state, isolated, unto itself, with a single-payer plan."
Kefalas' plan would lead to rationed health care and a socialized system, Stephens said.
"Colorado is going to open the floodgates for the world's sick at our taxpayers' expense," she said.
Under Kefalas' bill, doctors would not work for the government, and people still would get to pick their doctors, he said.
Two years ago, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform studied a single-payer system and found it was the only one that saved money compared with what Coloradans currently spend on health care. The cost savings come from more efficient administration under a government-run system than private insurance companies provide.
"Once we get past the bumper-sticker slogans, it really makes financial sense," said Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver.
Miklosi was happy to be talking about the bill Monday. Last year, proponents couldn't even get a single-payer bill introduced in the Legislature.
"It's an amazing debate. In a way, I'm surprised it made it this far," Miklosi said.