Gov. John Hickenlooper on a 2015 image.

(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Posted 10:30 a.m. | Updated 11:30 a.m.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper now says he opposes a ballot proposal to create a publicly-financed, comprehensive, Medicare-like health system.

"We do not support this proposal," his spokeswoman Kathy Green said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that, "We respect the motives of those behind it."
 
"Ultimately, it will be up to voters to decide on the merits of this initiative," Green said.
 
The statement noted Colorado has "made great strides" in expanding health care, "driving innovation and cost savings."  It said it would be "premature to remake" the state's health care system as reforms are starting to "bear fruit."
 
Since the ballot measure's passage late last year, Hickenlooper had publicly declined to take sides on the issue until this week.
 

"Let’s find out what the numbers say," he told CPR News last fall.

His statement comes on the heels of private comments made public this week by the conservative-leaning website Complete Colorado, in which the governor was considerably more critical of the measure. 

“The single payer issue…I mean, I don’t know what (unintelligible) cost it’s going to be huge. I can’t imagine there’s any chance that it will pass. But I can tell you there are a couple large health care related companies that are looking at moving their headquarters here, and they saw that, that that’s going to be on the ballot, and, and they paused. So I know you guys are looking at why is everything so easy to get on the ballot, I’ll carry that flag in a second.”

Complete Colorado filed an open records request to get the recordings, which were made at a Jan. 6 event hosted by the business lobbying group the Colorado Forum. Hickenlooper also commented on the hospital provider fee issue and possible oil and gas ballot measures.

His statement on Colorado Care surprised fellow Democrat Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, who's been a key supporter of the ballot measure.

"Health care is a nonpartisan issue, and this ballot process should remain out of the political arena," Aguilar said. "As a doctor, I can tell you that these financial barriers to accessing health care endanger the health and livelihood of Coloradans. Furthermore, the frustration and complexity of our corporate-run, profit-distorted health care payment system is leading to physician burnout."

Likewise, a ColoradoCareYes campaign spokesman said he welcomed the conversation about the merits of the ballot measure. 

"We agree with Gov. Hickenlooper regarding the need for health care reform and his assessment that it is ultimately a decision that rests with the voters of Colorado," Owen Perkins said in a statement.

CPR News' Nathaniel Minor contributed to this report.