Laurie Bendell attended the recent debate at a Littleton Church over Amendment 69, hoping to learn more about the citizen initiative that would amend the state Constitution to establish a universal health care system called ColoradoCare.She has concerns about it being a constitutional amendment.“It sounds good,” the Littleton resident said, “but we’re stuck with it.”With ballots already mailed to voters and due at drop-off locations on Nov. 8, Amendment 69 remains a confusing issue to many voters.The amendment would create a statewide government-run health care system for anyone with a primary residence in Colorado.Left-leaning groups that typically might be relied upon to support universal health care, such as Progress Now Colorado, NARAL and Planned Parenthood, have opposed the amendment, citing concerns about abortion access, joining various chamber of commerce and business groups and the Colorado Medical Society. Support for Amendment 69 includes The League of Women Voters of Colorado, National Nurses United and the Public Health Nurses Association of Colorado.Dr. Ellen Lewis, a Denver child psychiatrist and member of the ColoradoCareYes committee, and Freddie Guadet of the anti-Amendment 69 committee Coloradans for Coloradans, squared off at Littleton’s Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Oct. 17 to debate the initiative and answer questions.“I’ve been wanting to see something like this for years,” Lewis said, calling the campaign a “people’s movement.”Gaudet reminded the audience that because Amendment 69 is proposed as a constitutional amendment, it would be exempt from TABOR requirements and changes to correct problemscould only be done by a vote of the people rather than in the Legislature.“There’s no fixer bill next year,” he said.Amendment 69 would be paid for by new income taxes of 3.33 percent on employees and 6.67 percent on employers. Those who are self-employed would be responsible for all 10 percent, Gaudet said.The program would eventually be governed by an elected 21-member board of trustees, though it will first be administered by an interim 15-member board appointed by state legislative leadership and the governor.According to a September poll conducted by Magellan Strategies, the amendment is unlikely to pass. The poll of 500 likely voters found only 27 percent support, with 65 percent opposing and 8 percent undecided.The risks of Amendment 69, Gaudet said, include the possibility of the programcosting more than the new taxes would generate. He said that ColoradoCare may not be able to pay well enough to attract new doctors.“Most big-government programs run over budget,” he said.Much of the opposition is coming from the medical insurance industry, said Lewis, who added that despite the tax, Amendment 69 would result in savings for most Coloradans.“They’re putting millions of dollars to defeat us,” she saidof the insurers.Lewis compared the measure to health care systems in place in Canada and western Europe and said the drafters of the legislation had learned from a failed attempt at single-payer health care in Vermont, which she said the state Legislature therepassed without a funding mechanism in place in 2011 before repealing it in 2014.“Other countries have done this,” she said. “There’s no reason why we can’t.”But Gaudet said the program would create uncertainty.“I think this is a big risk to put on our health care, on our economy and to lock into our Constitution,” he said.Greg Staritzky, a member of the church, took notes at the debate and said he was leaning toward supporting the initiative.“I do want socialized medicine,” he said.
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