DENVER – Colorado voters in 2016 will have a chance to weigh in on whether to implement a single-payer health care system.
ColoradoCare was certified with ease, according to the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday, making it the first initiative to qualify for the 2016 ballot.
Of the 158,831 signatures submitted by proponents, the state estimates that around 109,134 are valid, based on a random sampling. It takes 98,492 signatures to qualify.
ColoradoCare would eliminate private insurance for a 10 percent premium tax so that the state can cover health expenses. It would amount to a $25 billion tax increase.
“Colorado deserves a better option, and now they can vote on one,” said state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, a physician and lead proponent of the effort. “Health care costs continue to rise every year, hurting Coloradans’ chances to get ahead. It’s time we get the insurance industry out of the driver’s seat and put families in charge of their health care.”
Critics of the proposal question whether proponents were honest with voters in collecting signatures.
“You definitely had some signature gatherers who gathered in high Republican areas saying to people, ‘Do you want to get rid of Obamacare?’ and people say, ‘Of course,’” said former state lawmaker Amy Stephens, a Republican, who said she witnessed the tactic in El Paso County.
“It’s deceptive and probably a clever way to get yourself on the ballot,” added Stephens, who worked on bipartisan legislation in 2011 that established the Colorado insurance marketplace, or exchange, known as Connect for Health.
Under the initiative, employers would share employees’ costs by paying 6.67 percent of the 10 percent tax, leaving employees with a 3.33 percent responsibility. After seeking a waiver under the Affordable Care Act, federal dollars also would be made available.
ColoradoCare would reflect a cooperative model by electing a board to oversee operations. The 21-member board would represent different districts.
Supporters say the initiative would come at a savings of roughly $5 billion over what Coloradans collectively pay through the existing system.
“The huge response to the petition drive demonstrates how much ColoradoCare will improve on what we’ve got now,” said proponent T.R. Reid. “It will cover everybody. It will save billions for Colorado firms and families – and with ColoradoCare, our state will be free of mandates and penalties imposed by Washington, D.C.”
An earlier version of this story included incorrect information in the photo cutline about where Dr. Irene Aguilar works.