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Amendment 63 – Rejecting Health Care Reform in CO?

October 25, 2010

DENVER - Next week's election includes a ballot measure that, on the surface, allows Colorado to turn back a key - and sometimes contentious - element of federal health care reform: the mandate for everyone to take personal responsibility for getting health insurance. But opponents say not so fast. Amendment 63 would change the Colorado Constitution, actually making it illegal for the state to require people to purchase insurance.

Dr. Michael Pramenko heads the Colorado Medical Association. He says Amendment 63 would not affect federal law, so even if it passes, individuals would still be required to carry insurance.

"Unfortunately, this has been politicized into a referendum on the latest health care reform plan. It's much deeper than that. It's about what you need in any health care reform plan to do what you need to do."

A Colorado blue-ribbon commission made up of lawmakers, medical professionals and consumers concluded that getting more people covered is a key part of improving the health care system. However, supporters of Amendment 63 say it preserves individual choice.

Chris Gilmore is a small-business owner worried about affordable health care. Both her husband and son have preexisting conditions that are not covered under the Colorado high-risk insurance pool.

"Unless you work for a big company that has benefits - all the small companies, I think we have a hard time finding affordable insurance. I can't even offer it to my employees, because that would put me out of business."

A broad-based coalition of more than 35 groups, from business leaders to social justice advocates, oppose Amendment 63. Pramenko says the only way for insurance prices to go down is to expand the pool of those who are insured to include everyone.

"This is about one element of reform that's necessary to provide coverage for folks with preexisting conditions - and to encourage personal responsibility."

The pro-63 Independence Institute reports that insured Coloradans pay about $85 a year extra on their policies to cover emergency room visits by the uninsured. But the state blue ribbon commission that studied insurance says the figure is closer to $1,000 per family.

The Independence Institute report is available at http://healthcare.i2i.org. The Colorado Trust report on the blue-ribbon commission recommendations is available at www.coloradotrust.org.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO