Nov. 09--A first-in-the-nation approach for socializing health insurance appeared on track for landslide defeat Tuesday, with nearly four in five voters opposing it.
Amendment 69 faced an overwhelming loss, with 80 percent of the state's early voting returns opposed to ColoradoCare -- a proposal to dramatically raise payroll taxes and create an unprecedented universal health care system.
Only 20 percent of voters backed the measure at 9:10 p.m., when the Associated Press called the race with 1,884,762 votes counted.
The results set the stage for Colorado to join Vermont as states that tried -- but ultimately failed -- to establish universal health care systems in recent years.
"This was a huge validation for what we've be saying about the initiative being very poorly drafted," said Sean Duffy, spokesman for the leading opposition group, Coloradans for Coloradoans.
Opponents said the vote was an indictment of state-based universal health care systems, as well as this specific proposal's language.
They said no such universal health care system could operate on a state level, rather than across the nation. Too many people would move to Colorado seeking care, they said, and concerns lingered that hospitals would suffer, particularly in rural areas.
Opponents also seized on an independent report issued in August that deemed the system financially unsustainable -- so much so that it would run billions of dollars in the red within a decade.
The report, compiled by the Colorado Health Institute, found ColoradoCare would most likely run a $253 million deficit its first year in operation (likely 2019), and it would balloon to $7.8 billion over the next nine years.
As is its policy, the institute never took a stand one way or another on the proposal.
But that didn't stop opponents from using it as ammunition to assail ColoradoCare as a statewide economic boondoggle.
Coloradans for Coloradans out-raised proponents by a 10-1 margin, and polls showed support lagging by double digits.
"I think it reinforces the idea that Colorado is a fiscally responsible state," said Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a leading opponent.
From the start, the race exposed deep fault lines within the Democratic party after a state lawmaker became one of its chief proponents.
On Tuesday evening, Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, said she had no regrets for touting the proposal.
With a fraction of the opponents' war chest, supporters relied heavily on mailers and endorsements from author Noam Chomsky and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, whose "Medicare-for-all" platform became a rallying cry during his Democratic primary campaign.
"I still think it's shameful that as the richest country in the world, we don't guarantee access to health care for everyone," Aguilar said. "And I think that the only way we'll ever get there is by starting at the state level."
The proposal aimed to drop the state's uninsured rate to zero, largely by imposing a 10-percent payroll tax (employees would have paid 3.33 percent and employers 6.67 percent).
The resulting system would have replaced most private and government health insurance plans with a program called ColoradoCare -- a health insurance program operated by an elected board of directors.
Only Medicare, Tricare and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries would have kept their current coverage, though they still would have had to share the financial burden of paying for ColoradoCare.
With the rout on, supporters downplayed any suggestion that the landslide defeat would blunt momentum for universal health care systems elsewhere.
Owen Perkins, spokesman for ColoradoCareYes, emphasized that both sides agreed the current health coverage system was ineffective.
"The disagreement was whether this was the right fix at this time," Perkins said.
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