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Grassroots Ballot Initiative Faces Well-Financed Opposition

A ballot initiative that would establish the nation's first public, universal health care system in Colorado is facing an uphill struggle. (gpointstudio/iStockphoto)
A ballot initiative that would establish the nation's first public, universal health care system in Colorado is facing an uphill struggle. (gpointstudio/iStockphoto)
March 29, 2016

DENVER - An initiative on the November ballot to make Colorado the first state to establish public, universal health coverage is facing well-financed opposition from business and conservative groups.

As former head of corporate communications at the health insurance giant Cigna, Wendell Potter says he led campaigns to defeat efforts similar to Amendment 69 to protect company profits. With millions of dollars at their disposal, he says industry positions can be broadcast repeatedly and many people end up believing them.

"They know that if you can create doubt, if you can get people to fear something, they're much more likely to oppose it and vote against it," says Potter. "So, that's what you'll see and most of the arguments are just, unfortunately, not based on real evidence."

According to the liberal news site Truthout, the Koch Brothers' group "Americans for Prosperity" and at least six other right-wing organizations have been actively campaigning against Amendment 69, using what reporters found to be misleading videos, ads and social media.

Governor John Hickenlooper also opposes the initiative, citing concerns by insurance companies saying they won't move their headquarters to the state if voters approve the measure.

Potter says proponents of Amendment 69, known as Colorado Care, face an uphill struggle simply because they can't compete financially.

He notes industry money typically flows into third-party groups because consumers would connect the dots if insurance companies came out openly against single-payer health care.

"What we need is much greater transparency," Potter says. "We need to know who is actually writing the checks. Where is the original source of the money coming from in these campaigns? And we just simply don't have the ability to find that out in many cases, in today's world."

Colorado Care is hosting forums this week in Loveland and in Denver's Stapleton neighborhood, and holds open call-in question-and-answer sessions every Wednesday.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO