DENVER–State Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) killed her own bill Friday to launch a single-payer universal health-care program in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean her idea is dead.
Far from it. A second Aguilar bill establishing a committee to examine how to establish a “comprehensive health care system for all Coloradans” was approved late Friday by the Senate on a party-line vote of 20-14, with no Republican support.
Under Senate Joint Resolution 21, the committee would meet six times in 2013 and propose legislation for the 2014 legislative session. The resolution must still win House approval.
“This is her back-up plan,” said state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Colorado Springs). “It sets up a study committee to figure out how to come up with a plan to implement this. It’s a very insidious way of moving this forward.”
Republicans argue that the committee would serve as a rubber stamp for a program already devised by proponents of a single-payer system, but Aguilar insisted Friday that her goal was to figure out how to lower health-care costs and expand coverage, not push through a “predetermined agenda.”
“Yes, this plan was drafted with people who want us to change our health-care system in a certain way, but as I said when I came up here earlier, I’m not interested in doing this along a party line,” said Aguilar on the Senate floor. “I could introduce the exact same thing, and it would be the exact same outcome, it would be a partisan split. That’s not what I want to do.”
Aguilar’s original bill, Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, would have put before the voters a proposal to set up a Canadian-style health-care program, funded by a 9 percent tax on income. Under the plan, called the Colorado Health Care Cooperative, employers would have paid 6 percent and employees 3 percent.
Self-employed Coloradans, who number about 425,000, would have picked up the entire 9 percent, Colorado Peak Politics reported.
The tax on income–not exactly an income tax, since it would kick in before deductions–would have raised an estimated $16 billion to fund the plan. To put that figure into perspective, said Lundberg, the state’s general fund is about $8 billion.
Aguilar laid over the bill until 2014 after it became clear Friday that she would fall short of the two-thirds majority necessary to place the measure on the November ballot. The Senate Health and Human Committee approved SCR 2 on a 4-3 party-line vote.
Lundberg called SCR 2 “the most aggressive government program I’ve ever seen proposed in the state of Colorado.”
“It’s just mind-boggling,” said Lundberg. “This would replace Obamacare. It puts government completely in control of the health-care process.”
Lundberg has championed legislation that would promote individual decision-making in health care, but Aguilar ruled out free-market solutions to problems of coverage and cost containment.
“You cannot have a free market when the price of life is unlimited and a person will destitute themselves to get health care, and once they are destitute we pay for it in Medicaid dollars,” said Aguilar.
The study committee would consist of 19 members, including Democratic and Republican legislators, employers and representatives from the medical and insurance fields. Seven committee members would be appointed by the governor.
Aguilar, herself a physician, said that Gov. John Hickenlooper opposes SCR 2, which means he probably won’t load the study committee with supporters of a single-payer system.
“If it makes you feel any better, Sen. Lundberg, the governor doesn’t support my plan, so odds would be in your favor about who he appoints to the committee,” said Aguilar.