ICYMI: Colorado’s Public Option Sales Pitch Hides the True Costs

Feb 11, 2020

Colorado — After nearly 80% of Colorado’s voters rejected single-payer health care in 2016, advocates for the proposed state-government public insurance option have developed a new sales pitch. “But is it true? No, it’s not,” Simon Lomax, a fellow with the Common Sense Policy Roundtable and former financial reporter, writes in The Center Square

Almost 90 percent of Coloradans with private health insurance have employer-provided coverage… Colorado has the 9th lowest employee premiums for family coverage and the 11th lowest employee premiums for single coverage,” Lomax notes.

Colorado is also one of the few states where premiums actually fell in 2018, the most recent year of data. We saw a 5.3 percent reduction for employer-provided family coverage and 3.1 percent for single coverage, compared to a nationwide increase of five percent. These reductions happened one year before the public option was even under consideration in Colorado.

Now, what about the public option lowering everyone’s costs? … Here’s what they left out: According to [a state] report, most households in the individual market will face higher costs with a public option.

The vast majority of households in Colorado’s individual marketplace – four out of every five – are ‘subsidized members,’” Lomax explains. “Reducing the tax credit for private insurance means these low- to middle-income households won’t pay less. They’ll pay more, as predicted by the state report. This is no accident.”

Just let that settle in: The public option was designed to help a small number of wealthier households in the individual health insurance market at the expense of poorer households.

Lomax points to a recent analysis by the REMI Partnership that finds the proposed state-government option “stands to benefit a few… at the expense of every other stakeholder.

“To be sure, the facts show our health care system is far from perfect,” Lomax adds. But Coloradans “need more choice, more competition and lower prices… We shouldn’t settle for the status quo. But to make things better, we should follow the facts. Deceptive sales pitches will only make things worse.

Across Colorado elected officialsbusiness leadersindustry leadersworkers’ groups and consumer advocates have raised significant concerns about the unintended consequences of a state-government option—including less access to care, service reductions and hospital closures, cost shifting and more one-size-fits-all coverage.

[This] proposal doesn’t really do anything to expand coverage to Coloradans,” Joshua Ewing, Associate Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Colorado Hospital Association, says. “Our first priority should be getting coverage for those folks who still lack health insurance today. But that’s not what the state option is doing. It’s really an effort to exert more control for state government over how the health care system operates.

Learn more about Colorado’s proposed state-government option and how you can take action at Colorado’s Health Care Future.