Choosing a health care provider should be a right guaranteed to all Coloradans says a citizen’s initiative approved for the statewide ballot Thursday—but a Colorado lawmaker contends there’s potential loopholes that may limit choice should the amendment pass.
On Thursday the Colorado secretary of state certified the initiative dubbed “The Right to Health Care Choice,” which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 63 in this November’s election. In July, 135,000 voters’ signatures were turned in to the Secretary of State’s Office, just under double the required number of signatures. The citizens ballot initiative is intended to counter sweeping health-care legislation passed by ruling congressional Democrats and championed by the Obama administration requiring most Americans to buy health insurance.
The Chairman of the Health Care Choice for Colorado Issue Committee, Jon Caldara of the Golden-based Independence Institute, said that if approved by voters, Amendment 63 would prohibit the state of Colorado from forcing its citizens to purchase a public or private health insurance product, either on its own, or on behalf of the federal government. The amendment would also constitutionally protect the right of Coloradans to pay out-of-pocket for health care services and products.
Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and sits on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said she believes the initiative will resonate with voters in its intent to secure choice in health care, but she sees some potential problems with the language of the amendment.
“I’m not a fan of the individual mandate – and never was in either a state or federal plan,” said Carroll. “However, I don’t think (Amendment 63 is) very well written. The problem is in the ambiguity of who this applies to and who it doesn’t.”
Carroll said the amendment appears to be selective regarding the right to choose health care.
“If you believe it’s a right, then why should 90 percent of the people who are employed in this state be denied that right if they get hurt on the job?” Carroll said, pointing to limitations on choosing doctors under the state’s insurance system for injured workers.
Carroll said she is also concerned that the initiative calls into question existing statute allowing insurance carriers and health maintenance organizations to limit payments exclusively to preferred providers or network providers. Carroll is not so sure that outlawing PPO’s and HMO’s was the intention of the drafters of the amendment.
“I know this trying to take aim at the federal health care bill, and we want to have a system where people have a very wide-open choice of providers– but PPO’s and HMO’s are an invention of the insurance industry, right now, limiting choice,” said Carroll.
Reached for comment, Caldara said that choice in health care is the essence of the initiative and that he doesn’t foresee any limits on choice. The language in the amendment, he says, acknowledges existing statutes regarding employment law. Participation in HMO’s and PPO’s, said Caldara, are a choice that consumers make, negating any notion that they will be outlawed.
“The idea that this somehow is going to limit choice is laughable. It only protects and expands choice in Colorado,” said Caldara. “To try and bring in some oddities about employment law and HMO’s is a stretch. I think it would be great to have more choices in Workman’s Compensation. Hopefully, in the long run, this initiative will help to expand choice for those folks as well.”
(The Colorado News Agency is a nonpartisan, nonprofit project in public-interest journalism affiliated with the Independence Institute.)