Colorado is now the scene of the nation’s most dramatic revolt against Obamacare. That rebellion could form the basis of a national debate on the unpopular program and the beginning of a movement that could reshape both healthcare and American politics.
A group called ColoradoCare YES managed to collect 156,000 signatures to get Initiative 20, a measure that would replace Colorado’s Obamacare exchange with a single-payer health insurance system, on the 2016 state ballot, The Denver Post reported. The group only needed to get 98,492 signatures to get the initiative, which would amend the state Constitution to implement single-payer healthcare.
A Major Defeat for Obamacare
This initiative is a major defeat for Obamacare because Colorado was one of the states that most enthusiastically adopted the federal program. It also shows that there is significant opposition to Obamacare on the left and within the Democratic Party. One of the leaders of the effort is Colorado State Senator Irene Aguilar (D-Denver), who is also a doctor.
One reason why this measure succeeded is that Colorado’s Obamacare exchange has been a mess. The largest and most popular insurance company on the exchange, Colorado HealthOp, shut down because it could not cover the policies it had issued.
More recently, when I went shopping for plans on the exchange, I noticed that there were only two insurance companies operating in my area: Anthem Inc. (NYSEL ANTM), the company formerly known as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and United Health Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH). There is no choice in healthcare in Colorado, and many of the plans are expensive; the average one costs around $300 for one person.
It is definitely a defeat for Obama and a repudiation of his signature program. That, of course, might be why the national media, and even Colorado’s media, has ignored this significant development.
A Paradigm Shift in American Politics
This could be a watershed moment because if it passes, the measure would create America’s first single-payer healthcare program. It also looks like the beginning of a paradigm shift in American politics.
If approved by Colorado voters, Initiative 20 would replace all the plans on the Colorado exchange with a single scheme financed by a 10% state income tax. The plan would be administered by a 21-member elected board and could cost around $25 billion, or about as much as Colorado’s state budget.
That would be the most radical reorganization of the economy and the healthcare industry in an American state in decades, including a massive expansion of government. Initiative 20 would also be a serious effort to use income taxes to redistribute wealth even though its proponents are refusing to admit that obvious fact. It is also the most left-wing measure on the ballot in the United States in decades.
ColoradoCare YES could be the beginning of a paradigm shift in American politics because it shows that there is popular support for single-payer healthcare in the United States and little or no backing for Obamacare. It could also be the beginning of a nationwide movement for single-payer care similar to that for legalized marijuana.
Marijuana legalization, another radical change that is sweeping the nation, started as a ballot initiative here in Colorado. One has to wonder if similar measures will start appearing in other states such as California. Colorado is regarded as a purple state that is often a harbinger of political change in the United States.
The success of this effort certainly marks a change in American politics as profound as the popularity of presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sander (I-Vermont). The idea that such an initiative could have reached the ballot in a U.S. state would have been unthinkable just five years ago. America is certainly tilting to the left politically.
Major Political Battle Looming
Initiative 20 will certainly dominate the political debate in Colorado for the next year. Colorado has a large, well-organized, and very noisy conservative and libertarian minority that will certainly mobilize to oppose this. Insurance companies are sure to spend a fortune to fight this as are conservative billionaires like the Koch brothers. One has to wonder if liberal billionaires such as Nick Hanauer and Michael Bloomberg will match them.
The debate is sure to be fierce and nasty, and it could affect the presidential race because Colorado is a swing state evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. An interesting possibility is that the real motivation for this effort is to increase the percentage of likely Democratic voters in next year’s election. Over the past 20 years a number of radical initiatives, including opposition to gay rights to marijuana legalization, have been placed on Colorado ballots in order to mobilize voters.
The Post reported that backers spent around $320,171 getting Initiative 20 on the ballot. That money obviously came from somewhere, and I imagine it is only the tip of the iceberg.
A result of Initiative 20 will be that Colorado’s airwaves will probably be filled with attack ads bashing the measure. Another is that Democratic politicians will be put in an uncomfortable position—will they defend Obamacare or side with single payer? My guess is that major Democrats will run and hide from this battle.
Obamacare has ignited a major new political battle that could profoundly change American politics and possibly healthcare. One has to wonder what else will be on next year’s ballots if something this radical can make it there.