Colorado can become a national policy leader on health care reform just as it has with marijuana, argues T.R. Reid, board chair of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care.
The Foundation and its political arm, Co-operate Colorado, aim to create a Colorado-based non-profit cooperative health care plan that would cover everybody in the state from birth until they go on Medicare at age 65. After 65, the plan would provide supplemental coverage.
We have this opportunity due to Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” which allows any state to “opt out” of the federal health care reform “once we set up our health care cooperative, the mandates, regulations and penalties in ‘Obamacare’ won’t apply to Colorado any more,” Reid notes.
Reid has been a journalist who reported from four dozen countries on five continents. His career has been impressive — a long time Washington Post reporter, the author of nine books in English and three in Japanese as well as a documentary film correspondent for PBS, National Geographic Television and the A&E Network.
Reid compared the “crazy quilt” U.S. health care system with those of other advanced industrial democracies in three films for PBS and a best-selling book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. He found that those other rich countries have better national health statistics than the United States and they are able to cover everyone at much less cost.
Many people thought “Obamacare” established a universal health care system. But even after ACA fully goes into effect, as many as 31 million Americans still won’t have health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Meanwhile, rightwingers want us to go backwards. The New York Times reports their attempt to dismantle the ACA is running into resistance by the giant insurance firms:
“[I]nsurers may soon be on a collision course with the Republican majority in the new Congress. Insurers, often aligned with Republicans in the past, have built their business plans around the law and will strenuously resist Republican efforts to dismantle it. Since Mr. Obama signed the law, share prices for four of the major insurance companies — Aetna, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth — have more than doubled, while the Standard & Poor’s 500- stock index has increased about 70 percent. … [S]ince the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the nation’s largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in their Medicaid enrollment.”
Advocates for a genuinely universal and comprehensive health care system are divided in their assessment of ACA. Something to be supported and expanded or a noxious compromise? It is cer tainly a huge government handout to the insurers and it doesn’t have any serious cost controls.
Many experts have concluded that additional expansion of health coverage will have to be accomplished state-bystate since the federal government is too polarized to do anything.
That’s where the Colorado Health Care Cooperative would come in. The plan was designed by Irene Aguilar, a physician and Democratic state senator from Denver. Advocates plan to launch a six-month-long signature-gathering drive sometime this spring in order to put it on the 2016 ballot.
T.R. Reid says the cooperative wouldn’t have any marketing expenses, or high-paid CEOs. He feels that the cooperative could easily get 60 to 70 percent of Coloradans under 65 into the plan, which would give it “market clout to lower costs.”
Under the cooperative, the private, for-profit insurance industry would no longer be a middleman.
Reid notes that the billing office at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora has 107 employees. He says, “They deal with hundreds and hundreds of forms from many insurance companies with multiple plans. Doctors at the hospital perform certain procedures every day three to five times a day. But doctors can’t tell a patient how much a procedure costs because there are different bills for each patient.”
A new study found that $375 billion was wasted in 2012 on medical billing paperwork and insurance-related red tape.
That’s absurd. It’s time we join the civilized world and treat health care as a human right, not a commodity.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.