Is health care help on the horizon?

Colorado considers single payer overhaul of broken healthcare system


Six in ten Coloradans want “big, fundamental changes to the healthcare system,” according to a 2022 poll from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Nearly half of them put off recommended medical care because they couldn’t afford it, their insurance denied it, or they couldn’t access the care where they lived.  

A 2023 survey found that 69% of Coloradans considered the cost of healthcare and mental health care to be “extremely” or “very serious” concerns. 

On the first day of Colorado legislative session, Rep. Karen McCormick, a Longmont veterinarian, introduced  HB24-1075 entitled “Analysis of Universal Health-Care Payment System.” A similar bill, HB23-1209, was introduced last year but was killed in the Senate on the last day. The goal this time is to have the updated bill passed by March 25, ahead of the “long bill” (annual general appropriation act, authorizing the spending of public money). That bill tends to delay remaining legislative work.  

The other sponsors of HB24-1075, all Democrats, are Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, a Fort Collins musician and former Lutheran pastor, Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a Longmont pharmacist, and Senator Janice Marchman, a teacher in Loveland. 

The bill asks the Colorado School of Public Health to study the impacts of a universal health care system in Colorado to individual and community health and to the health care workforce.  A task force would be formed to create model legislation based upon 10 essential criteria

  • “It shall provide comprehensive benefits for medically necessary care, including dental, hearing, vision, and mental health.”
  • “It shall provide home care and long-term care at least at the level of coverage currently available to Medicaid-eligible persons in Colorado.”
  • “Health care decisions shall be made by patients and their health care providers.
  • “Patients shall have free choice among qualified providers.”
  • “It shall cover all Colorado residents.”
  • “The system and the cost of care shall be funded by premiums based on  ability to pay.”
  • “There shall be no deductibles or copays.
  • “The agency shall ensure fair drug and hospital prices as well as fair payment to providers.”
  • “It shall be a publicly administered nonprofit enterprise and the sole agency paying for Colorado’s health care costs.”
  • “To avoid profiteering, there will be no middlemen with the incentives and power to limit benefits or impose other barriers to care.” 

This is a version of single payer, a publicly financed and privately delivered system. 

It is an attempt to create such a system on a state level. There are similar efforts in many other states. At the same time, a growing number of legislators in the U.S. Congress are supporting a bill for a nationwide system called Improved and Expanded Medicare for All. 

HB24-1075 is an outgrowth of a 91-page study in 2021 by the Colorado School of Public Health led by a bipartisan task force. They compared two different approaches to universal healthcare. The first model was a “multi-payer” plan  “in which all residents are covered with a mandated set of benefits that is publicly and privately funded and also paid for by employer and employee contributions.”  A public insurance plan would be provided for those without insurance.

The second model was a single public insurance plan that covers everybody. (In both models, people over 65 would be covered by Medicare). 

The experts’ report concluded: 

“Healthcare reform in Colorado introducing universal health coverage that is either a multipayer or single payer system has the potential to increase access to care, improve health outcomes, and possibly provide sector-specific employment benefits. Our cost estimates suggest that a multi-payer universal health care system will likely lead to small increases in the total cost of Colorado’s health care system. Introduction of a full publicly financed and privately delivered health care system could yield significant healthcare savings, particularly if pricing regulations are put in place to control cost growth in the future.” 

The study offered the following estimates of total annual costs under the three models studied: 

  • Current system: $38.3 billion 
  • Universal coverage, mixed insurance system: $38.6 billion to $39.34 billion 
  • Universal coverage, public insurance system: $34.62 billion to $37.78 billion

Let’s make Colorado the first state to enact single payer. Contact your legislators and ask them to pass HB24-1075. You can be sure the medical industrial complex lobbyists will try to kill it. 

This opinion does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.