9 September 2015: Co-op could make health care affordable

Co-op could make health care affordable

The debate over health care comes down to an essential premise: Is it a right or a privilege? Then the practical: How should it be provided and paid for?

A century-long effort to implement some sort of national health care system saw fruition with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which has survived constitutional scrutiny and been successful in achieving its goal of insuring tens of millions of previously uninsured. Since 2013, Colorado’s uninsured rate has decreased from 14.3 percent to 6.7 percent. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the remaining hundreds of thousands of un- and underinsured, those that spend more than 10 percent of their income on medical costs. Often, they work for small businesses that are not required to offer insurance. Given that hourly rates even double the minimum wage simply do not provide sufficient dollars to pay the high costs of health premiums once other fundamentals—food, clothing, and shelter—are paid for, many go without. Consequences of that generally include catastrophic care in emergency rooms and personal bankruptcy.

Compounding that unpleasant news are reports the plague of health care corporatization grows unabated. The latest is the merger of Anthem with Cigna, which follows on Aetna snagging Humana. And if that isn’t enough, UnitedHealth is eying Aetna after it swallows Humana, a case of a really big fish being eaten in turn by a humongous one. When that transpires, more than half of Americans will find themselves at the mercy of two mega-corporations: Anthem-Cigna or Aetna-Humana-UnitedHealth.

As California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said, “Generally speaking, further consolidation in the health insurance industry is not a good thing for consumers, employers or medical providers. It means the potential for future price increases as a result of less competition.”

Basic economics: Monopolies rule, prices skyrocket, meaning “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

As can be seen, the future of health care, despite the ACA, is inexorably moving towards consolidation. While the ACA has led the way, it is far from a sea change. For that to happen, we need to take action at the state level by changing the playing field

If one truly holds to the premise that health care is every human’s right, a for-profit, third-party middleman method of delivering it is in reality an anomaly, a non-sequitur. That then leads to the question about how to provide it without creating a national, single-payer system.

In Colorado, a solution is being presented in the form of an initiative for the 2016 ballot provided sufficient signatures are collected. It is called ColoradoCare or Initiative 20.

According to its website, “ColoradoCare is a resident-owned, non-governmental (emphasis mine) health care financing system designed to ensure comprehensive, quality, accessible, lifetime health care for every Colorado resident.”

Simply put, ColoradoCare’s business model would be a cooperative similar to credit unions, rural electric cooperatives, REI, and the Green Bay Packers.

“The benefit package,” the description continues, “would enhance the comprehensive health care services required by Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Premiums would be collected from Coloradans based on income, securing health care regardless of financial circumstance.”

The intent is to insure every Coloradan citizen has access to health care, which would dramatically improve our overall health and save billions of dollars. Those covered by Medicare or in the VA and a couple other national health programs would continue with their coverage, though the Medicare Part C supplemental would be provided by ColoradoCare.

That’s the short of it. Of course, there is far more.

What is also great about this initiative is the timing: We will have a full year to study and vet it. There will be no need or excuse to rely upon a 30-second sound bit to make an informed decision.

Recently our former senator Jeanne Nicholson and local leader Laurie Beckel, both health care experts, joined me on KYGT for an in-depth discussion about ColoradoCare. You can hear it on our website’s News and Talk page: www.kygt.org.

Check out two websites: http://coloradocareyes.co and www.couniversalhealth.org.

Finally, a community forum will be held at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs this coming Monday, September 14, from 5:30 to 7:30. Pizza and soft drinks will be provided.

The stakes are high, to be sure, with this potentially being the most critical public policy decision of your life. Please begin to educate yourself now on this promising program.

See you at Beau Jo’s.

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