Steamboat Springs Washington went too far when it passed health care reform this year. While the voters of Colorado can’t change federal law, we can amend Colorado’s constitutional Bill of Rights to guarantee a right to health care choice and to stand up to D.C.
Passing Amendment 63 — the health care choice amendment — will prevent state officials from requiring you to buy health insurance you do not want, from a corporation you do not like, at a price you cannot afford.
The amendment does three things:
■ It guarantees that the state of Colorado cannot force you to participate in a health plan.
■ It guarantees that you have the right to spend your own money on lawful health care.
■ It prevents the state from using your tax money to enforce federal laws that contravene these rights. In this, Amendment 63 sends a strong message to politicians in Washington.
There are two main reasons why the Colorado Constitution needs to be amended to protect your rights.
First, it is wrong for government to make people buy a product. Even mandates to buy car insurance apply only if you own a car and drive it on public roads.
Health insurance mandates require that you buy health services before you buy food, education or anything else. They appeal to health plans, physician groups, hospitals and government agencies because they increase the money flowing to them.
Coloradans already know they can reduce their health care expenditures by buying health insurance policies that cover large expenses and paying cash for the relatively low-cost office visits, tests and supplies that make up roughly a third of national health spending.
Everyone saves money when you pay your doctor directly rather than making him submit a bill to a bureaucratic insurance company. Cash discounts for routine medical services can be as high as 15 to 20 percent.
But mandated insurance policies are formulated by special interest groups. In virtually every known case, their backroom deals make mandated policies cost more than those freely chosen by people buying their own policies.
Big tax subsidies for groups judged unable to afford insurance go hand in hand with insurance mandates. The subsidies reallocate health risk from the self-paying uninsured to taxpayers. The Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform found that “forcing everyone into the insurance pool” would require a minimum of $3 billion a year in additional state spending, mostly to subsidize insurance purchase for people who already are getting the medical care they need.
It also found that in 2007 the cost-shift from the uninsured to the insured was just $85 per insured person.
With mandates, your premium costs would fall by $85 per insured person. Your taxes would go up by a minimum of $1,071 per insured person.
As the Blue Book notes, Amendment 63 lets state government set up voluntary public health plans just like it does now. It does not affect Medicaid, CHP Plus or Medicare.
Second, Amendment 63 protects your right to spend your own money on the lawful health care that you need. You can do this in Colorado now, but what will politicians desperate to preserve poorly run public programs do in the future? In most of Canada, doctors were prohibited from accepting patients’ money for covered health services to preserve “equality,” making it impossible for them to earn a living outside of the government-run provincial health plans.
And since the amendment protects direct payment only for lawful health care services, it does not affect state government oversight of medical care quality via licensing and regulation.
Amendment 63 will help preserve Colorado as a safe haven for private health care providers, clinics, hospitals and alternative medicine. And that means jobs, and economic development, along with health care choice.
For us, the rights protected by Amendment 63 are literally a matter of life or death. Jon Caldara’s son, Chance Caldara, is alive because he had timely access to advanced medical care. A special needs child, he will need more in the future. Without Amendment 63’s constitutional protections, future political self-dealing could make it impossible for him, and others like him, to access the medical care that they need.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute. Linda Gorman is its health care policy director. For more information, visit www.amendment63.org.