The most important ballot issue in America this election season is Colorado’s Amendment 69. This measure would create a statewide single-payer health insurance system in Colorado, which would be a first in the United States.
Although I am a strong supporter of single-payer health insurance; I voted against Amendment 69 because it is deeply flawed. Those flaws will create more problems and make the health-care system in Colorado worse.
What’s wrong with Amendment 69?
There is a lot wrong with Amendment 69 but a number of flaws stand out. The worst of these flaws include:
- Amendment 69 effectively imposes a 10% flat tax on almost all Colorado residents. When it is fully implemented, most Colorado residents will pay a 3.3% income tax; and employers will have to pay a 6.67% tax on employees’ salaries. That means most residents will face a 3.3% income tax increase and a 6.67% salary cut.
- Amendment 69 will put an unjust burden on all self-employed Coloradoans including freelancers, small-business owners, independent contractors and gig-economy workers. They will have to pay a 10% flat tax on all income, while employees pay just 3.3%. That will put a terrible burden on people with limited cash flow; including Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts, and strangle the gig-economy.
- Amendment 69 puts the tax burden on the middle and working class while giving the rich a huge break. The numbers reported in the 2016 State Ballot Information Booklet indicate that households will only be taxed on the first $10,000 in non-wage income and $250,000 in wage income. The 10% will put a burden on working families, but such Colorado residents as Dish TV Chairman Charlie Ergen; #18 on the Forbes 500, will hardly notice. Ergen is worth $16.8 billion, even though his company might benefit from single-payer; because it would not have to offer health insurance, he will not pay any additional tax. That is totally unfair.
- Amendment 69 might politicize Colorado healthcare. The system it would set up; ColoradoCare, will be administered by an elected 15-member board of directors. What would happen if anti-vaccine fanatics such as Jenny McCarthy, pro-lifers or Catholic extremists completely opposed to birth control got of the board. They would be in a position to force their views on everybody else in the state, and voters would have little recourse. Another potential problem is that the board might end up polarized between different groups. The amendment specifies a nonpartisan board but we all know there’s no such thing.
- Voters would have little or no control over Colorado Care board members once they were elected. Amendment 69 states that board members will not be subject to recall but they could be removed by a vote of the board. That means voters would not be able to recall a board member who went back on promises or acted unethically. Worse, the board’s majority would have the power to simply remove a member that disagreed with its positions; and replace that person with a yes man to rubber stamp its’ decisions.
- The state legislature would be in a position to gut Amendment 69 because it would appoint the first board. Legislators might appoint an ideologically biased board dedicated to sabotaging Colorado Care; or destroying it from within.
- If it was successful Colorado Care might lead to a massive migration of people with serious health problems into the state. Those people would move here to get the government-subsidized healthcare and greatly increased costs. Since many of those people would be poor, uneducated and perhaps disabled and incapable of working; they might put an intolerable strain on the state’s social services system.
- The 10% flat tax implemented by 69 would drive many workers and businesses out of the state and might reduce economic activity. Businesses and freelance workers might flee the state, while other business would refuse to locate here.
- Amendment 69 might lead to widespread tax-evasion. Some Colorado residents might establish sham residencies in Wyoming to avoid the 10% tax but remain in Colorado to take advantage of Colorado Care.
- The income tax might not provide enough revenue to cover Colorado Care’s expenses. That would expose the state to default and debt and force the legislature to use other funds for healthcare. This might occur if population increases or healthcare costs spiral out of control.
- There is a strong potential for corruption here, the board would be in a position to reward corporations with lavish contracts. A strong possibility is that Coloradoans would end up paying too much for substandard healthcare, while board members and lobbyists got rich off kickbacks.
After reading 69 one has to wonder what its authors were thinking. In particular, why do they want to take authority away from the people’s representatives in the state legislature and put healthcare policy in the hands of a potentially unaccountable board? Why do they want to strip voters of the ability to recall officials?
I also have to wonder why the backers of this amendment did not consider other avenues of funding such as a value-added tax (VAT); or an expansion of the state’s sales tax. Such mechanisms might have raise more money without penalizing working families.
Amendment 69 is a poorly-designed and badly-written piece of legislation every person who believes in justice and common sense should vote against. That goes doubly so for people who believe in single-payer healthcare, because this shoddy ballot measure gives the concept a bad name.