(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
You’ve probably never heard of Initiative 20….unless you listen to right wing talk radio, or hang out on right wing websites. Then, you might believe that Initiative 20 is a Communist plot to ration your health care, run all private insurors out of Colorado, take away your Medicaid, and generally make your life miserable.
Initiative 20, the ColoradoCareYes plan, is the beginning of the end of the Federal Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) in Colorado, and Koch-funded attack groups are trying to stop it before it begins.
Republicans, after having tried to repeal the ACA 54 times, (but still having no plan to replace it) should be rejoicing that a coalition of groups in Colorado, inspired by Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D, is promoting an alternative to the ACA. I mean really…the end of mandates? The end of Obama’s name on your health care plan? No price discrimination against rural consumers? No deductibles? It’s a Tea Party dream!
In the original ACA legislation is an “innovation” provision, article 1332, which allows states to opt out of the ACA, if they can prove that their own programs have as good or better outcomes for consumers. The ColoradoCare plan as written would be simpler, more fair, and less expensive than the ACA.
Instead of rejoicing that Democrats are accomplishing their goal of replacing the ACA, however, Republican operatives and organizations quickly stomped on the rollout of Initiative 20 with a Koch-brothers funded website, and talk radio diatribes about how the ColoradoCareYES Initiative must be stopped.
Some background information:
Why replace Colorado’s Health Exchange?
- Colorado’s Exchange, ConnectforHealthColorado, has met most of its goals.
- The numbers of uninsured are down– 90% of Americans are now covered by health insurance. Colorado has seen a 6% drop in uninsured people. This is the lowest uninsured rate since 2008, according to Gallup.
- Premium rates have decreased only .8 % overall since implementing the ACA, according to a Kaiser study. Premiums are slightly declining, or slightly increasing, on average. It’s a good reason to look at the ColoradoCare system. We’re unlikely to see any significant decline in premiums under the present Exchange system.
- The exchange is on track to be self-sufficient financially.
- Enrollment in Colorado’s exchange is still increasing.
Yet, problems persist with Colorado’s implementation of the ACA
- There are still Website glitches.
- Many people are unhappy with the Mandate
- Insured has to change carriers when changing jobs. (This happened to me – I liked my plan, but I couldn’t keep it. I’ll have to change again this year.)
- Rural and mountain areas still have higher premiums, and vary widely.
- Costs of premiums have slightly increased overall, (average 4%) , according to Forbes, but this is the slowest increase in decades.
- Most people still want a universal health care system – like every other industrialized country in the world has. We want a simple, affordable system which is easy to access, fair, covers basic healthcare for everyone , and continues uninterrupted through jobs and life changes.
- T.R. Reid, spokesman for the ColoradoCare Initiative 20, said,”There is absolutely no question that this will save Coloradans money. Corporations, individuals and the state government will all save money with this plan. The reason for high costs (of health care) is the enormous administrative costs. Our plan replaces this with a much cheaper approach to health insurance. Everybody pays for it. Everyone is covered by it.”
What will Initiative 20 do?
The Initiative 20 signature drive will need to collect 99,000 valid signatures by October 23rd to get on the ballot in November 2016. As a kick-off activity, ColoradoCare volunteers danced as a “flash mob” at Union Square and on the 16th Street mall.
Initiative 20, if passed in November 2016 election, would set up a process by which Colorado would gradually opt out of the Affordable Care Act and discontinue the ConnectforHealth Colorado Exchange. Twenty-one trustees would be elected to administer it, representing all parts of Colorado.
Every employee would pay 3.3 % into the fund, and every employer would pay 6.6 %. This adds to 10%, and the financial summaries on the ColoradoCare site suggest that it would cost around 25 billion dollars. This is, of course, much lower in terms of premiums and overall cost than the present system – streamlining, centralization of administration, and eliminating duplication of effort are looked to save costs.
The ColoradoCare ballot initiative is the culmination of years (since 2008) of work from many dedicated organizations and individuals: Healthcare for All Colorado, Colorado Health Care Cooperative, and the unceasing persistence and leadership of Doctor and Senator Irene Aguilar, who actually became a Senator to make it easier to pass universal health care for Coloradans.
Who is opposing ColoradoCare’s Initiative 20?
Advancing Colorado itself drew my attention to Initiative 20 – On a right wing site, I was surprised to see Advancing Colorado’s link to their own video of the flash mob, and heavy hitters lining up against this little, barely known ballot initiative. So, of course, I had to research who these heavy hitters were, and why they were so vehemently opposed to this health care initiative.
Advancing Colorado, Inc is the main organization opposing Initiative 20. It has a new website, and was founded in 2014. The Secretary of State lists it as a nonprofit business. The Articles of Incorporation list:
- Kenneth R. Clark, as the Registered Agent. Clark is a KLZ talk radio host, and the former Colorado Field Director of Freedomworks. Freedomworks is Dick Armey’s Tea Party lobbying and activism group, and spent thousands in CO on issue attack ads against Udall & the Affordable Care Act.
- Richard Bratten, the Incorporator, is an actuary, and banking industry insurance professional. He is also the Executive Director of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, an influential legislative think tank. He is the founder of Principles of Liberty, an organization seeking a “convention of states” to “curtail the Federal Government.”
- Joshua T. Kistler, former legislative aide to several Republican legislators, is Advancing Colorado’s IT and operations manager.
- Advancing CO Executive Director is Jonathan Lockwood, former state director for Generation Opportunity. Generation Opportunity, or Genop, is the corporate right wing’s attempt to recruit young people. Genop is funded through the YEM trust, funded primarily by the Koch brothers. Lockwood himself, although he looks young, has an impressive record of taking down liberal candidates and causes. As press lead with Free Colorado, he promoted the Magpul magazine sale, which partly funded the 2013 recalls. With Compass Colorado, he also helped to further the recall effort. As Communications Director for CRER, he helped to defeat Amendment 66. Below is a photo from Lockwood’s Facebook page, of himself (third from left) with other state GenOp staffers.
Although Advancing Colorado claims to be an organization of “Colorado citizens concerned with government overreach and abuse of power,” and its website also claims that it is a nonpartisan group, it is clearly not nonpartisan; all of its board and staff are Republican operatives. And it is not a simple grassroots Colorado coalition. The incorporation paperwork came from a Wisconsin insurance law firm. The Koch brothers have paid Lockwood’s salary for the last year, either through the Koch Institute, or through the Generation Opportunity payroll. Koch funding is convoluted – see the diagram under sources below. Generation Opportunity’s funds can be traced back to the Koch Brothers.
Ken Clark, Advancing Colorado’s registered agent, and radio host of Freedom560 on KLZ at 1 pm daily, lost no time in attacking Initiative 20 and the ColoradoCare proposal. A podcast of the 5/26/2015 show includes Mr. Clark stating many falsehoods about the program, and failing to disclose his own conflict of interest as the opposing organization’s registered agent.
- Some sample whoppers from the show:
- At 4:18, he states that there are “fewer Coloradans with healthcare now than before it (ACA) started.” (Demonstrably not true – see stats in opening paragraphs of this article, or here)
- At 5:20 “It will kick every private insurer out of the state of Colorado.” The ColoradoCare program provides minimum basic care from the provider of choice. People are free to supplement as they see fit.
- 7:50 “It will steal from the rich, and give to the poor”.
- 8:36 Clark disputes the ColoradoCareYes claim that ColoradoCare will be a “non-governmental health care system”. I think this is a legitimate criticism – although technically true that CC would be a subdivision of a state system, it’s hard to see why the average voter would consider it to be”nongovernmental”.
- 9:24 Clark claims that people will not be allowed to exceed a “set amount of health care”. Continuing, he claims that “Health care will be rationed.”
- At 10:55 he says our best option is to “cripple the signature gathering initiative, and then try and stop the financing, because this is a battle we don’t need. “
- At 14:06, Clark claims that the elected healthcare board will be “skewed towards the left.”
Jason Salzman monitored Clark’s 5/27 show, and heard more of the same, plus
- “Colorado Care will take over Medicare” (It will administer Medicare, Workmen’s Compensation Medical, and the CHP+ program, but it will not “take over” Medicare).
- Clark claims that there will be no oversight and no regulation. My reading of the initiative shows that CCY will be reporting to the Department of Revenue, the Insurance Commissioner, various Health and Social Service Boards, and comply with all transparency and Open Meetings laws.
- Clark claims “Now, the payment of that tax does not constitute the purchase of a health insurance policy by an employer or a tax payer – Isn’t that nice?” Since the legislation gives a waiver to ACA requirements, there is no mandate- and no penalty.
- “It is not limited by TABOR”. Since the fees assessed to employer and employee are not taxes, but are premium payments, it is not a tax increase. However, the TABOR law mandated that the initiative use the wording “Tax Increase”.
- “It will destroy healthcare in Colorado”.
- I called in to Clark’s 5/28 show. I was pleasantly surprised that, unlike most right wing radio hosts, although very opinionated, he was not verbally abusive, and actually let me speak. Clark did own up to being the Registered Agent for Advancing Colorado. He told me to call back anytime – I may do that.
Advancing Colorado, through Director Lockwood’s tweets, claims that the ColoradoCares program will be funded via a “25 Billion Dollar tax increase”.
.@ColoradoCareYES is a $25 billion trojan horse http://www.advancingco.org/media/blog/coloradocare-is-a-25-billion-trojan-horse-2/ … #copolitics #cohealth
T. R. Reid says, “It is absurd to suggest that ColoradoCare will increase costs. Whether you call the payment a ‘premium’ or a ‘tax,” it is going to be lower –less than half, in many cases –than the insurance premiums we’re paying now. Colorado Care takes in $25 billion, and replaces premiums that cost more than $40 billion. Anybody who passed 3rd-grade arithmetic can see that this saves money– for families, for business, and for the state government.”
Universal health care is what we as progressives, as moderates, as conservatives, always wanted. We want to be like every other industrialized country that has a simple, affordable, fair health care system for all. Colorado can be a model for other states struggling to come up with a workable model for healthcare. We shouldn’t let these slick, lying, Koch-funded groups decide our future for us.
Detailed county data about health is available from coloradohealthinstitute.org.
Funding Streams of Koch-connected foundations, LLCs, and nonprofit groups.
The graphic below is the work of OpenSecrets.org. They traced the network of Koch funding in 2012. 2013 is the latest year that I could find 990s for Generation Opportunity, YEM Trust, Center to Protect Patient Rights, and other funding sources who share a common mission: to attack and undermine the Affordable Care Act, and now the ColoradoCareYes proposal. So while I was unable to find definitive links between the Koch funding streams and Advancing Colorado in 2014, a reasonable reader can infer that if its Director was on the Koch payroll 1 week before Advancing Colorado came online, and had worked for the Kochs, or other extreme right wing dark-money groups, in one capacity or another for the last three years, that he is still working for them.
Further, it’s clear that these organizations (GenOp, Advancing Colorado, Compass Colorado, Center to Protect Patient Rights, Koch Institute) have a common mission to defeat any consumer-friendly health plans in Colorado and elsewhere.