As a rural physician in Fremont County for almost 28 years, I've witnessed the deterioration of our health care system. But finally, there's hope: We may have a light at the end of the tunnel with ColoradoCare.
Too often, people blame "ObamaCare" for our system's ills, completely forgetting the system was already broken. Unfortunately, the deformed monster that came out of Congress fixed some issues but didn't address the underlying problem: Our system is based on profit, not providing health care, unlike the majority of developed countries that provide universal health coverage at a much cheaper cost.
People say they don't "need" health insurance, that health care is a luxury, not a "right." These people are denying the fact that we live in bodies destined to get sick, age and die. To think one will never need health care is a delusion. Access to health care isn't just a right, but a necessity.
Nevertheless, in the U.S., many cannot get health care. For decades, none of my asthmatic patients ended up in the hospital, because they could afford maintenance medications. No longer. For the insurance and pharmaceutical companies to claim they care for their "customers" is a sham. In their desperation, cancer patients — who need medications for which Big Pharma charges tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars — go bankrupt trying to pay outrageous bills with bake sales. I've had patients die as they could not afford care.
ColoradoCare would remedy this. It would provide lifelong health care with major savings to patients and providers. People would be able to get care from the doctor of their choice for no deductibles, no copays for primary care, and modest copays for specialists. If you lose your job, or want to change jobs, you'd still have care. If you are on Medicaid, you'd no longer have to worry that if your financial situation improves you'd no longer qualify. If you're injured on the job, the medical portion of Workers Compensation would be a thing of the past: Care would be provided under ColoradoCare, and employers wouldn't have to pay the extra premium.
Medicare, as a federal program, wouldn't change. However, Coloradans would have the cheaper alternative of supplemental coverage through ColoradoCare, without annual deductibles.
How would this be paid for? Because this plan meets all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act — in fact surpassing them — Colorado should continue to receive federal funds through ACA and Medicaid. Employees would have 3.33 percent of their pay go into the fund, with their employers putting in 6.67 percent, or up to the full 10 percent if they wish. People with unearned income would contribute up to 10 percent of their income (depending on their tax bracket) with a cap of taxed income at $350,000 for single people and $450,000 for couples. Much Social Security and retirement income would be exempt.
ColoradoCare would be organized by a board appointed by the governor, then elected by Colorado residents.
This grassroots movement faces opponents with very deep pockets. Those who stand to lose are the insurance and pharmaceutical companies making huge profits today. The CEOs of insurance companies earn millions of dollars a year. When the opposition says jobs would be lost by this proposition, they're talking about insurance-related jobs, ignoring the fact that the providers of the care they profit from are being driven away. The insurance companies' motto is "collect premiums and don't pay out benefits," and they construct obstacles all along the path. If ColoradoCare passes, much of this aggravation would melt away.
The opponents also argue over how much this would cost, not mentioning that people would no longer have to pay the costs of private insurance, with its premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Employers would save money for a better insurance plan and would no longer have to pay extra for Workers Compensation.
So, please, vote for Amendment 69 — ColoradoCare. We have the opportunity to have a health care system that exists for the purpose of providing care, not lining the pockets of billionaires.
Madeline Jacobs, MD has been a family practitioner in Penrose since 1988. She received her medical degree at the University of Colorado Medical School and completed her residency in Fort Collins.