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APR’s state ballot series: Opposition outspending supporters of Amendment 69

Sep 28, 2016

State Senator Irene Aguilar and valley local Adam Olsen are in favor of Amendment 69 - ColoradoCare which would set up a system to provide health insurance for all Colorado residents through a provision of the Affordable Care Act.
Credit Alycin Bektesh / Aspen Public Radio News

Amendment 69 - “ColoradoCare”

A “yes” vote would change the state constitution to set up a universal health care system, a “no” vote would keep health care as is.


Amendment 69 made the ballot through a citizens petition, led by Colorado Sen. Irene Aguilar. The measure lacks political support on the state level, and proponents are heavily out-fundraised. The opposition has raised $3 million, compared to $660,000 by supporters. Aguilar points out that it’s the health industry leading the charge against “Health Care for All”. Anthem alone donated $1 million toward the “no” campaign.

“Opposition donors are insurance companies and hospitals,” Aguilar said. “Not because Colorado, at 5.3 million people, is that big of a state, but because Colorado is a purple state. If it’s successful, it will lead to a change of how healthcare is provided around our country.”

If the measure passes, a fixed amount of income tax will go to funding a statewide system in which all residents are insured. Longtime local Adam Olsen said he has done the math, and would be paying about the same for much more coverage — especially knowing that in resort mountain towns, health insurance costs are skewed because of the higher likelihood of catastrophic events.   

“The benefit to paying this small income tax outweighs what you currently pay,” Olsen said. “And what you potentially could be paying, because it’s the cost after you are diagnosed or treated that really add up. The trip to the ER could be the least expensive part of your trip.”

While high-profile progressives like Bernie Sanders and Noam Chomsky have endorsed Amendment 69, Colorado’s Democratic Governor and congressional representatives won’t support it, saying it leaves too much up in the air once approved. It’s’ “a plan to make a plan,” they say.

Aspen Valley Hospital's incoming CEO Dave Ressler agrees. He isn’t sure how it would directly affect the organization.

“The stakes are enormous in terms of the amount of covered lives and the amount of dollars that would be involved, and I’m just not convinced that the manner in which it's being proposed would have the degree of accountability and ability to be able to manage that amount of resources,” Ressler said.   

Note:  This fall, Aspen Public Radio is exploring how statewide measures play out in the Roaring Fork Valley. Tune in each week to hear an analysis of each initiative. For a complete look at election coverage, click here.