Single-payer proponents encourage comparisons

Scott Beilfuss
Scott Beilfuss
Rich Garigen
Rich Garigen

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Two proponents of a ballot measure that would implement a single-payer health care system in Colorado encourage business owners to consider the issue like they would any other decision affecting their operations: Do the math and compare costs.

Increased taxes imposed under  the plan to pay for universal health care still will cost less than premiums for health and workers’ compensation insurance, said Scott Beilfuss and Rich Garigen, two Grand Valley men involved in the campaign to pass Amendment 69 in November.

There are other advantages of so-called ColoradoCare for businesses, Beilfuss and Garigen said, including the predictability of set tax rates as opposed to changing insurance premiums. Moreover, the availability of health insurance should help businesses attract employees and help Colorado attract businesses, they said.

“I think it’s going to be an incentive,” Beilfuss said.

If approved, Amendment 69 would implement a comprehensive health care system funded by a 10 percent tax divided at 6.67 percent for employers and 3.33 percent for employees.

Those earning income other than that from payrolls also would pay a 10 percent tax — excluding some sources of income, such as Social Security payments and some pension income.

People would still choose their medical providers, but the bills would be paid by the ColoradoCare system rather than private insurers. A 21-member board with elected representatives from across the state would oversee the system.

Garigen said ColoradoCare offers a more simplified approach to health care in covering everyone with one payer. That approach eliminates the role of private insurers in the process and in turn the cost.

Proponents of Amendment 69 said they expect the $25 billion in tax revenues collected annually under Amendment 69 would be less than the $30 billion Coloradans collectively spend on health care costs.

Beilfuss said his decision to campaign for Amendment 69 was chiefly a moral one. “In our great country, we shouldn’t have people without health care.”

But the more simplified approach to health care also makes sense given the potential savings involved for employers and individuals, he said. By one estimate, 80 percent of Colorado residents would save money on health care if Amendment 69 passes.

Employers that offer health care insurance typically pay more for premiums than they would paying the 6.7 percent payroll tax, Beilfuss said. Additional premiums for the medical portion of workers’ compensation insurance would go away under the plan. Individuals similarly would pay less under ColoradoCare than they do now for private insurance with deductibles, he said.

Government entities would realize savings as well, Beilfuss said, estimating that Mesa County would save $2 million under the plan.

Moreover, a portion of money previously paid for health insurance that left Colorado for the headquarters of insurance companies would remain in the state with ColoradoCare, he added.

Since tax rates set under ColoradoCare can’t change without the approval of voters, the system offers more predictability to businesses than health premiums that change from year to year, Garigen said.

Access to health care coverage at a set price will help businesses attract employees and Colorado attract businesses, Beilfuss said. People who were reluctant to leave jobs to start their own ventures for fear of losing health insurance will be free to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, he added.

While their might be concern over changing to a single-payer health care system, many people already receive coverage through such government programs as Medicare, Medicaid or the Child Health Plan, Beilfuss said. He estimated,  in fact, that  60 percent of the residents of the Grand Valley receive government health care benefits. “We’re very, very entrenched in the system.”

The results of a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found a growing willingness among those who responded to favor health coverage offered through a single plan, particularly among younger people, Beilfuss said.

As for coverage under ColoradoCare, the system must offer benefits that meet or exceed the requirements under the federal Affordable Care Act as well as meet or exceed the benefits offered under Medicaid to obtain the necessary waivers to operate, Garigen said.

At the same time, ColoradoCare must provide competitive compensation to health care providers at reimbursement rates far above Medicare or risk losing those providers, Garigen said. “We don’t want them to be broke.”

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