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'Coloradans need health care access now, and Coloradans need affordable coverage now.' (Image: Healthcare for All Colorado)

The Human Calculus: Political Futures vs. Human Life on the Colorado Ballot

Donna Smith

Not long after I moved back to Colorado in early 2013, I met a young, up and coming state legislator named Crisanta Duran.  She was awarded the Health Care for All Colorado “Health Care Hero” award for her staunch support of a sound health care policy that would help working class families secure access to affordable health coverage and quality health care.  We had high hopes for her advocacy on behalf of those with little or no voice in the process.


What a difference just a little over three years can make as I look now at where Rep. Duran, now the Democratic leader in the Colorado House, stands on health care.  Her rise in political power combined with predictions for a very bright political future have dimmed her passion on behalf of those hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who remain uninsured and underinsured. Duran has shifted her allegiance from the people who elected her to the politicians who have tagged her for higher office in the future and more power as she awaits her ascension.  There is nothing new or surprising about watching this devastatingly obvious transformation. So why do I let it trouble me so much right now, in this case?


Crisanta Duran and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper aren’t the only politicos who are waiting in the wings for Hillary Clinton to be elected president so they may be tapped (surprise, surprise, surprise) to serve in her administration.  While I have no doubt that both Duran and Hickenlooper’s support for Secretary Clinton is genuine, I also have no doubt that they both aspire to the higher level and more prestigious positions which have undoubtedly been dangled for the future should there be a second Clinton White House.  All they have to do is bring home the Colorado vote for HRC.  Up until very recently, that might have been a given.  But in the most recent polling, it looks like even here in Colorado, the presidential race has tightened to nearly a dead heat.


I am supporting Colorado’s ballot amendment #69, ColoradoCare, that would create a universal, improved Medicare for all style system for every resident of Colorado.  Building on the firm foundation of the Affordable Care Act and the subsequent Medicaid expansion in Colorado, ColoradoCare stands to save lives and billions—yes, billions—of dollars in taxpayer spending on health care.  Yet HCAC’s 2013 Health Care Hero Crisanta Duran opposes ColoradoCare.  So does John Hickenlooper.  And the presidential candidate they both hope will be their future boss, Hillary Clinton, has said very clearly that the United States will “never, ever” have a single-payer system.  Hillary Clinton opposes Medicare for all.  So, naturally, any rising political star or established elected official would take the position Hillary Clinton desires.


Am I surprised?  No.  Am I dismayed? Yes. And that upset is deeper than a political disappointment. I am deeply disturbed that both Rep. Crisanta Duran and Gov. John Hickenlooper so easily dismiss what is happening in Colorado households all across the state in favor of their own post-election political potential. They are choosing their own power and status over the health care needs of Colorado’s people. I thought better of both of them.


You see, my health insurance premiums are set to rise by 20 percent in 2017 (as are the premiums for all in Colorado who purchase their insurance on the state exchange), and I already pay more than $600/month just for my premium alone.  I will have to pay for that coverage or risk not being able to access the care I need.  Add to my total the co-pays and prescriptions, and I surge well over $1,000/month in costs now.  But I will remain underinsured with high deductibles and co-pays just like an estimated 700,000 other Coloradans. I will self-restrict my own care because I won’t be able to afford it even though I will be paying more than $700/month for my premiums (plus co-pays and deductibles) next year for insurance.  ColoradoCare would fix that problem for me and for all residents of Colorado.  My out-of-pocket costs would drop to a fraction of what they are now, and I would not have deductibles or onerous co-pays to worry about if I got sick or hurt.


ColoradoCare, amendment #69, is not perfect, but it is so much more affordable for working families and for our state too.  The scare tactic advertising being run by the opposition is just that – scare tactics.   As an example, a friend of mine debunks the main scare tactic highlighting the collection of taxes instead of insurance premiums as follows, “State title law did not provide for every eventuality and the title law itself is not neutral, as the average person might think.  It is, in fact, grossly biased in favor of for-profit corporations like the private insurance industry over public services. If we were talking about something superficial it might not be worth complaining about, but people's lives and the economic security of every Colorado family is at stake. Instead of ‘SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $25 BILLION ANNUALLY IN THE FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR" an accurate title would read something like "Shall the lives of over 5,000 Coloradans be saved annually and $5 billion currently wasted on insurance middlemen be saved by Colorado families each year...’  There's a huge difference.”


But what really ought to scare and anger Coloradans is that two of our finest elected officials have so boldly and openly succumbed to bigger political ambitions and players.  ColoradoCare would save money and save lives.  We need to be having an honest conversation about that instead of wondering who is beholden to whom for what and when.  Coloradans need health care access now, and Coloradans need affordable coverage now.  And that is an agenda I want and expect our elected officials to address.  

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith

Donna Smith is the former executive director of Progressive Democrats of America and currently a Medicare for All campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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