Single-payer health care will be on the ballot in Colorado

I have no clue how this will fare, but supporters of a single-payer health-care system have obtained enough signatures to get the question on the ballot in Colorado next year.

Under the Affordable Care Act, a state can opt out of that program if they replace it with something that insures the same or more people with benefits that are as good or better than those mandated by Obamacare.

By my lights, the best thing about Obamacare is that it increased the share of Americans who have health insurance. The worst two things are that it is so complicated and that it still leaves a large portion of Americans uninsured. Single-payer would be much less complicated. In Canada, which has a single-payer system, they get much better overall health outcomes for much less money, although, of course, the comparison is complicated by many factors.

The Colorado proposal would leave seniors under Medicare. And it wouldn’t abolish private insurance companies, which would be free to offer competing plans. But the main plan would be paid for by a new $25-billion payroll tax that would take two-thirds from employers and one-third from employees.

Colorado is a purple state. I wouldn’t make any guesses about how this proposal will fare. But it should be interesting to watch the campaigns and the arguments unfold.

By the way, state Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) has been advocating for years for Minnesota to adopt a version of single-payer health care.

More details in this Politico report.

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Comments (26)

  1. Submitted by charles thompson on 11/13/2015 - 01:12 pm.

    single payer

    They must be high. Considering all the weirdness that comes out of local government in some of the cheesier states in the country, this initiative, which will be voted on by the populace (oh no it’s that damn democracy again) will definitely give Pete Coors and the other local job creators the bends.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 11/16/2015 - 12:22 pm.

      Business Impact

      On the one hand the businesses won’t appreciate the additional tax. On the other hand I would think they would heartily endorse a single payer system as it takes the burden of administering health care off the hands of the company HR staff. From talking to my coworkers and friends who are in HR they say they spend a large part of their time working on health care issues, such as finding a plan the company can use, working through an acceptable deductible, dental, eye, and all the other million-and-one details. I bet they would be overjoyed to see that process simplified or taken off their hands entirely.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/13/2015 - 01:55 pm.

    Purple state

    Agreed. It should be interesting to see how this campaign and its issues unfold. Wingers there (both wings) are at least as rabid as wingers here, so it might be an instructive contest.

  3. Submitted by T J Simplot on 11/13/2015 - 02:14 pm.

    That’s fine…

    That’s fine if they want to put it on the ballot. Vermont passed a law to enact Single Payer but when it came time to find a way to pay for it, they couldn’t. Ended up not enacting Single Payer.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/13/2015 - 05:28 pm.

    Single payer

    would be best implemented on a national level.
    Otherwise we will inevitably have conflicts between coverage offered in different states by insurance companies which are incorporated in particular states, and to individuals residing in different states.

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 11/13/2015 - 07:37 pm.

    What’s the problem?

    I thought Obamacare made health care available and affordable for all?

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/14/2015 - 04:47 pm.

      The (conservative) Heritage Foundation

      I didn’t think this plan, which originated with conservative think tanks and was promoted by GOP politicians until it was adopted by Obama, would work that well. Obama should have went with his original impulse and passed single payer. Instead, he compromised right put of the chute, and in return he got absolutely no GOP support.

      It sounds like you had higher hopes for it than I did. Frankly, I’m never disappointed in corporate Democrats like Obama or the Clintons. When push comes to shove, they always kowtow to Wall Street. They talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/15/2015 - 10:55 am.

      What part of ‘single payer’

      don’t you understand?
      Insurance companies still add their 20% to our health care costs.

  6. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/13/2015 - 08:27 pm.

    Single payer and hedge funds

    States like Colorado can’t tax hedge funds or the other “special entities” that exist solely by virtue of federal tax law. So they can’t do things like close the hedge fund “carried interest” loophole that allows billions to “avoid” federal income taxes. There are limits on state to tax entities and transactions in interstate and foreign commerce.

    During the Great Depression, FDR got Congress to enact a tax on “excess reserves” by corporations. This was a sort of attributed to Keynes who had written that the Depression was caused in part by corporations retaining excessive earnings to replace assets. Moderns times require modern solutions. The carried interest loophole in the tax code is undoubtedly one of many changes in taxes that could be enacted (with a more enlightened Congress) to pay for things like single payer health care. Even restoring the enforcement budget of the IRS would be a gain considering the obscene levels of untaxed funds hoarded in offshore accounts.

    There would be no end of capacity of this country to pay for single payer and other benefits enjoyed by citizens in other industrialized nations if the government would unleash creative minds to recover the wealth which in justice belongs to the working people of this country. It was our productivity who made this wealth even possible in the first place.

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 11/20/2015 - 04:12 pm.

      “…recover the wealth which in justice belongs to the working people of this country.” Isn’t this a quote from Karl Marx?

      The only (underline only) reason I voted for the current president was to support his effort to devise a health system that would cover the health needs of all of our citizens. In Minnesota we’ve made significant progress. But coverage is uneven and not yet universal proving that we probably need a single payer system as Canada and the UK have had for many years.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/14/2015 - 08:57 am.

    I like the idea

    of states being the laboratories of innovation and new ideas. It sure beats mandating a one-size-fits-all federal government solution across all 50 states before it’s even been tried in a smaller setting.

    Recently, that’s the way the gay marriage thing played out, as well as legalizing marijuana. Let the states, enabled by their willing (voting) public, be the incubator and then let other states adopt those good ideas as their population see fit.

    This is the inherent advantage of federalism and why the 10th Amendment is so popular with thinking people and why these same people quickly oppose mandates by the central government.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/14/2015 - 08:56 pm.

      The 10th Amendment

      The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

      This sounds clearer than it really is, since the framers of the Constitution deliberately left it vague.
      That’s why we’re still arguing and adjudicating what exactly the Constitution says, and thus what powers it delegates.

  8. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/14/2015 - 08:58 pm.

    Most of what constitutes

    the Affordable Health Care Act has already been tried in the States (notably Massachusetts) as well as in Europe and Asia.

  9. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/14/2015 - 09:00 pm.

    The thinking people

    who founded our country (Washington, Madison, Jefferson, etc) tried federalism (in the form of The Articles of Confederation) and rejected it as a failure.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/16/2015 - 09:07 am.

      Not Exactly

      We still ended up with a federal system. The states retain powers that subdivisions of other countries do not have. The drafters of the Constitution recognized that a federal system is viable only under the umbrella of a strong central government.

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/15/2015 - 06:47 am.


    People talk about wanting simplicity, but the goal of making things simpler never seems to be there when we actually do things. People complain Obamacare is too complicated, an argument with some merit. But when health care policy was being decided, hardly anybody out there was arguing that one of the policy goals should make the plan simple. Instead, we had too many special interest groups involved in the process, making sure their own interest were protected, a process which inevitably leads to complexity, contradiction, and confusion.

    My modest proposal is to do these things in a way that’s goal oriented. What is the goal of health care policy? My suggestion is that it should be to provide universal quality care that’s affordable for all. In my fantasy, anyone who has a different goal from that, should be excluded from the process. And of course, the problem with that is that if you exclude people from the process whose first concern is the welfare of the people the program is intended to serve, you will never get enough support for it to pass.

  11. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/15/2015 - 07:35 pm.

    The thinking people

    My thanks to Paul Brandon. Those thinking people tried federalism – as “10th-ers” like to fantasize about it – and it was a disaster, not only for the nation, but for the states, as well. That’s precisely why a constitutional convention was called, attended by all 13 states, I might point out, and they all ratified the resulting document (some more rapidly than others).

  12. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/15/2015 - 11:39 pm.

    If the 10th Amendment is really an illusion

    as some of the posters here seem to believe, then why would Colorado believe it has the right to put this to a ballot? Shouldn’t they be dutifully compliant with Obamacare and accept the federal mandate?

    Maybe because they’ve already passed a state law legalizing marijuana, which contradicts federal drug law, that they have this delusion that the 10th Amendment actually applies to them.

    And purely as a hypothetical, if the election of a republican president results in a new SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade, those who embrace an all-powerful central government will be glad that the 10th amendment exists, because the abortion issue will be rightfully thrown back to the states and not simply outlawed nationally as it would be otherwise.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/16/2015 - 08:46 am.

    State issues

    Should abortion be a state issue?

    In some states, abortion will be regarded as murder. A girl who obtains an abortion in some of those state will be subject to the death penalty. In a state adjacent to such a state, abortion might not be a crime at all. Does that make sense? If someone in an abortion death penalty state arranges for a girl to go to a state where abortion is legal, that person is subject to the death penalty while the girl is not. Should the girl in the state where abortion is legal be subject to extradition to the state where abortion is a crime and where she might receive the death penalty?

  14. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/16/2015 - 10:45 am.

    “that you were around prior to Roe v. Wade (1973), when abortion was indeed a state issue and I don’t recall too many executions as a result.”

    I was, but that was a long time ago and a lot has happened since then. For one thing, back then, abortion was not regarded then as murder by pro life supporters. A lot has happened since 1992 also. I would note that the 1992 case as described by Mother Jones is clearly not the law today. Pro life supporters seem to have no problem at all imposing multiple restrictions designed to impose a prohibitive burden on the providing of abortion services. That’s what the Texas case, recently accepted by the Supreme Court is about.

    Lots of people think what they believe whether what is certainly the most serious of crimes should be decided on a state by state basis. I see this as unprecedented myself. Murder is pretty much murder in every state. We don’t normally think of murder as presenting state’s rights issues.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/18/2015 - 12:20 pm.

    It’ll pass easy

    I don’t why democrats have never realized the obvious but single payer sells itself and whoever passes it will be an unassailable hero for decades. The problem with democrats is they frequently classify common sense as: “over-reach” and perform remarkable mental acrobatics the service of denying the obvious.

    Whenever you explain single payer and how it works, and what it costs… people want it and they want it 20 years ago. Colorado of all places? Whatever we’ll take it.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 11/19/2015 - 01:11 pm.

      Hit It, Baby!

      How soon can we get it implemented here? In the words of Jake and Elwood Blues,

      “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

      “Hit it.”

  16. Submitted by richard owens on 11/20/2015 - 03:38 pm.

    We have single payer ready to go. It has been in committee at the legislature.

    Minnesota proudly leads the way to better health outcomes for everyone.

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