When It Comes To Spending, The ColoradoCare Fight Has Been Lopsided

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Photo: ColoradoCare Supporters Rally In Boulder w/ Bernie Sanders
Supporters of the ColoradoCare universal healthcare ballot proposal, known as Amendment 69, rally at CU Boulder. Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke at the event to build support for the amendment.

One of Colorado’s most high-profile ballot battles is over ColoradoCare. Otherwise known as Amendment 69, voters will decide whether to create a first-of-its-kind, state-level, tax funded universal health care system.

The Amendment 69 fight is also one of the most expensive.

If you’ve had your eyes open in Colorado, you’ve seen one of the ads taking a stand against Amendment 69. It presents the proposal as a "too big," painting the plan as a financial disaster in the making. The ad says the measure would “raise our taxes by $25 billion a year, that's the largest tax increase in state history, it would double the size of state government.”

ColoradoCare supporters, on the other hand, have their own ads. Their promise is one that saves not just money, but big money.

You’re only just now starting to see ads like this from ColoradoCare proponents. Advocate T.R. Reid chalks it up to a huge fundraising gap, pointing out that the pro-Amendment 69 side is “being viciously outspent by the insurance companies.”

Opponents have raised more than $4 million, nearly five times what supporters brought in. The majority of that money came from big national players in health insurance and healthcare. A million from Anthem. Half a million from Kaiser. Nearly half a million from United. At least a $100,000 each from HealthOne, Centura, Pharma, and Cigna.

Photo: Cody Belzley, Coloradans For Coloradans, ColoradoCare Money
Cody Belzley is a consultant with Coloradans for Coloradans, the opposition group behind the No on Amendment 69 campaign.

Because, she said, it’s out to replace private insurance with an “untested,” publicly-run system. Business groups aren’t wild about it either: Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Association of Realtors, Associated General Contractors and Encana Oil & Gas are all against it. More than 1700 individuals, small businesses and organizations are supporting the No on Amendment 69 campaign because they’re wary of the proposal, Belzley said.

“The reality is if this does pass Colorado is in uncharted territory,” she said.

ColoradoCare supporters have kicked in more than $800,000, much of that from small donors. A recent appeal from former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders lead to a flood of donations. The group has received contributions from almost 7,000 small donors, many from around the country. Though it’s being outgunned in total money, campaign staffer Jeriel Brammeier said ColoracoCare has many times the number of contributors as those opposing the ballot measure.

Photo: Joel Dyar, Jeriel Brammeier, ColoradoCareYes, ColoradoCare Money
Jeriel Brammeier (left) and Joel Dyar are field directors and Western Slope organizers for the ColoradoCare Yes campaign in Grand Junction.

“Absolutely this is people power versus corporate power campaign,” Brammeier said.

Amy Downs, a vice president with the independent nonprofit Colorado Health Institute, calls the vote a “referendum on the current system.” She’s not surprised by the spending, on both sides. An economic analysis of the proposal, conducted by her group, found ColoradoCare could be financially unsustainable over time. But the analysis also found it could save the state nearly $3 billion a year in administrative costs and profits as private insurers are replaced.

The showdown in Colorado is a proxy fight over competing visions for the future of health care. One that Downs assumes will be a “game changer for private health insurance.”

“I do think it’s closely watched just because it’s the first state where the voters are considering such a change and if this were to work in Colorado it could easily spread to other states,” Downs said.

Editor's Note: We incorrectly identified an ad from opponents if Amendment 69 as from the group Coloradans for Coloradans. The ad is actually from another opposition group Americans for Prosperity. This story has been corrected and we regret the error.