Debate: Colorado Voters To Decide On Universal Health Care (Transcript)

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Photo: University of Colorado Hospital doctors on rounds
Medical staff visit with a patient during their rounds at the University of Colorado Hospital.

The way many Coloradans pay for health care would change dramatically if voters approve Amendment 69 on the ballot this fall. Under the new system taxes would go up significantly to fund a new insurance program called ColoradoCare that would replace private insurance bought from companies like Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross.

Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner hosted a debate on the measure with T.R. Reid, who leads the campaign to support it, and Cody Belzley, a consultant with the largest opposition group, called Coloradans for Coloradans.

Read the transcript:

Ryan Warner: This is Colorado Matters from CPR News. Iím Ryan Warner. How many Coloradans pay for healthcare would change dramatically if voters approve Amendment 69 this election. Taxes would go up to fund a new universal healthcare system called ColoradoCare. It would largely replace private insurance. We're going to debate the measure with T.R. Reid, who leads the campaign to support it, and Cody Belzley, a consultant with the largest opposition group. And welcome to you both.

Cody Belzley: Thank you.

T.R. Reid: Hi, Ryan.

RW: I want to start with how this could affect patients. So right now the healthcare system can be confusing. You know, there's getting referrals, making sure procedures and medications are covered, not knowing exactly how much you'll pay for an office visit or a trip to the emergency room. So TR, I wonder how, briefly, this would change healthcare consumers' life?    

TR: Well, our proposition says this: it says shall Coloradans pay $25 billion to create a healthcare system based in Colorado, run in Colorado, that covers everybody and gives you choice of any doctor, any chiropractor, any pediatrician basically, it's like Medicare for everybody in Colorado. That's what you get if you vote ìyes.î If you vote ìno,î then you're voting for this proposition: shall Coloradans pay $36 billion to out of state insurance companies that dictate which doctors we can see, restrict the treatments and drugs your doctors can use, and raise our prices 20 percent a year," because that's what they're doing. You reported that September 21st a 20 percent price increase next year. In other words, if you vote "no," you're voting for the insurance companies and the current system. And this vote gives us a chance to take a referendum on the insurance companies. If you're happy with what you've got, stick with it. If you'd like to see everybody covered, that's the fundamental difference.

RW: All right. And a few of the finer points. You would eliminate deductibles, correct?

TR: Yes. 

RW: Okay. There wouldn't be co-pays for primary and preventive care?

TR: Right.

RW: Okay. And you can choose your own doctor under this plan?

TR: Yes. Any doctor, any hospital, any lab. So here's the deal. If you live in Colorado, you go to the doctor, you say, ìI live in Colorado,î and she sends the bill to ColoradoCare. Quite simple.

RW: And yet Coloradans recently went through an overhaul of a different kind: the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- is supposed to address a lot of the same challenges that you want to address here. Still a relatively new law. Democrats are open to improving it, changing it. Why not continue to work down that path?

TR: There are two problems with Obamacare. It did expand coverage significantly, but it still leaves tens of millions of Americans with no health insurance -- 360,000 people in Colorado have no health insurance under Obamacare, and that number's been going up the last two years where things aren't getting better. And guess what, Ryan? Those people still get stick. And then they go to the emergency room for their doctor's office, the most expensive possible place to get healthcare, and since they're uninsured we all pay for them. Under ColoradoCare everybody pays for health insurance, and everybody's covered.

RW: All right. Cody, Iíd like your response, but help us understand where you're coming from first. I assume you are not opposed to the idea that everyone should have health insurance? That that's not the platform on which you come into the studio today.

CB: Iím certainly not opposed to the idea that everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare services. Whether or not that's paid for through an insurance model or not is yet to be debated, but you know, Iím a progressive advocate. I've spent the last 12 years of my career working on access to healthcare, particularly for low-income and underserved populations, and I think that the general goal and objective behind Amendment 69 is a good one. However, the details are critically important, and critically flawed.

RW: Well, give us a few examples.

CB: So there are basically three buckets of concerns about Amendment 69. The first is that this would create a brand new, untested healthcare system, a never before done universal, state-run, government funded healthcare system. It takes a huge risk with something that's critically important to each of us as Coloradans, and that's our healthcare system. And it takes this brand new, never before tested system, and it locks it into our state's constitution, making it virtually impossible to revise or change moving forward. While it locks into the constitution a framework for this new system, it leaves critically important questions, unanswered questions, about what our benefits will be, what our access to services will be, and ultimately what this new system will cost. And we should talk more about the unknown costs as we get further into this conversation.

RW: We will do so, for sure.

CB: But the third piece that I think is really critically important is to note the $25 billion price tag associated with this.

RW: That's the lead language of the Amendment.

CB: It is. And it would give Colorado the highest income tax rate in the country. It would levy new taxes on all Coloradans, through both a payroll tax, but also an income tax on non-payroll income, meaning that senior citizens, members of our military people will be paying into this healthcare system, they will be taxed for this new healthcare system, whether or not they use ColoradoCare as their primary source of coverage. So from our perspective Amendment 69, while underpinned by good intentions, is simply too risky, too uncertain, and too unaffordable for Coloradans.

RW: All right. Lots to unpack there. You say this is untested, you say it's an experiment isn't that how lots of policy begins?

CB: Absolutely. The question, though, is what is the size and scope and scale of the risk that we're willing to take? Ryan, you referenced the Affordable Care Act earlier. Colorado has been on a path to healthcare reform that, frankly, predates the Affordable Care Act. We've been taking steps in this state for the last ten years to improve our healthcare system. The question is not do you endorse the current system; the question is do you trash the current system in favor of something that's so risky and untested, or do you continue to work to make the system that we have more efficient, more effective, and more affordable.

RW: I want to say, about each of your backgrounds. Cody, you previously advised Democrat Bill Ritter on health policy when he was governor. And T.R., you spent most of your career as a journalist with the Washington Post. You've written several books and made PBS documentaries about healthcare around the world. So to get more of your perspective here, more of where you're coming from, how did those travels, T.R., inform your support for Amendment 69?

TR: You know I got interested in healthcare because as you know I was a foreign correspondent and we had to go to the doctor in other countries and we got fine care and didn't have to wait very long and the prices were minute. Ten percent, one-tenth, one-twentieth of what you'd pay in America. So as a reporter I went around the world to see how they do it and that's when I discovered the most important thing, all the other countries like us provide healthcare for everybody. There's only one industrialized democracy that doesn't. That's the United States. So I thought we ought to do that. We're not going to it at a national level. Washington DC can't fix our healthcare system.

RW:  And yet there has been talk from Secretary Clinton, if she were to be elected president and some democrats in the Senate, that they might pursue something like universal healthcare at the federal level.

TR:   Well Hillary says she's for it, eventually. When does that mean? The current system that they support, as I said, it expanded coverage but it leaves hundreds of thousands of people in our state with no health insurance. We ought to cover everybody. I mean if our neighbors are in pain or too sick to work, you know a rich society ought to provide healthcare for them. And anyway, it costs less to do this because the health insurance companies, who are paying for Cody's campaign, are just too expensive. They add 20 percent to every doctor bill in administrative costs and that's so important to them that they wrote it into ObamaCare that they can charge 20 percent for administrative costs. ColoradoCare's administrative costs, our whole, our plan is based on a tested model called Medicare. Our administrative costs are going to be 4%. That's a huge saving and that's a major reason why our plan, you know they talk about the $25 billion tax increase. That's true. They never mention the $36 billion we're paying now. 

RW:  Isn't it a bold thing to say administrative costs will be 4%, that's where the savings will come from. What do you base that number on?

TR: I base that on Medicare. So our plan is public payment of private providers. You keep the same doctor, the same chiropractor that you have now. That's the Medicare plan. And their administrative costs are 3.8%. Here's why. No advertising, no marketing. The private insurers are paying their CEOs $20 to $60 million a year. ColoradoCare is not going to do anything like that. So our administrative costs are going to be just like Medicare's. That's our model. It's a tested model. So that's why we say 4%.

RW: All right. Let's do focus on the finances because that's critical here. The first line, as I said of this amendment as it appears on the ballot is 'Shall state taxes be increased $25 billion annually?" And indeed the NO campaign has hammered this point in ads. 

[playing advertisement]

"Sometimes too big can be bad. Take Amendment 69 for example. It 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 and create a single program that would be bigger than McDonald's, Starbucks and Nike. That's the kind of big that just doesn't make sense."

RW: But Cody, is that a bit dishonest? Because it doesn't acknowledge that people would no longer pay deductibles and in many cases won't pay co-payments. 

RW: Or health insurance premiums. 

CB: So, Iím excited for the opportunity to talk about the details of the financing of this because I think itís critically important. The first thing to know is ColoradoCare doesn't cover doesn't become the primary source of health coverage for all Coloradans. Senior citizens will continue to receive Medicare. Members of the military, whether they're active or retired will continue to get benefits through TRICARE or the VA, and nothing in Amendment 69 actually prohibits the continuation of private health insurance. So 20-ish percent of Coloradans at a minimum would not be covered by this system, yet everyone is taxed for the system.

RW: Well T.R. Reid, is that true? So if you don't use ColoradoCare you have to pay for it in taxes?

TR: Well, Iím on Medicare and the VA, that's where I get my health insurance. There's a big exemption for seniors but above the exemption you pay, and can I tell you why I like that? Iím old. I donít have kids in the public schools anymore and I pay the tax for public schools because I want to live in a state where every kid has an education and a chance to succeed. And in the same way, I will pay some tax -- not too much -- for ColoradoCare because I want to live in a state where everybody who's sick can get healthcare and has a chance to succeed. That seems fair to me.

CB: Well, let's be clear about what the taxes do cover. The taxes cover all income, whether that's earned income through payroll or that's income on savings, investments, pensions, social security. Mr. Reid is right, there is a statutory $24,000 exemption for senior citizens, however anything above $24,000 is subject to that 10 percent tax. I think the other thing that's really important to know is that $25 billion doesn't cover the full budget. In addition to the $25 billion of tax revenue, ColoradoCare seeks to take control of an estimated $11 billion of existing state and federal revenue that support healthcare programs. So the total cost the total annual operating budget of ColoradoCare is actually estimated to be $36 billion.

RW: And in fact, the Colorado Health Institute did a forecast of ColoradoCare, T.R. Reid, and it found that there might be as big as an $8 billion deficit within a decade. What do you say to that that even with this sizable tax increase, as you say $25 billion, it might not cover the expenses?

TR: A, it's not a tax increase. As you pointed out, they don't mention that we're paying $36 billion now in taxes to out-of-state companies.

RW: Well, let me rephrase that. In other words, even with the funds that you establish for ColoradoCare, the Colorado Health Institute says you're still going to be in a deficit.

TR: The Colorado Health Institute said we will save Coloradans billions of dollars -- they said that -- and then they said they think we fall short. We fall short, 1/100th of 1 percent in the first year and slightly more for years on in, and that's because we disagree with them on how much federal money we're going to get. As Cody said, the federal government is going to pour billions of dollars into this because they're encouraging states to do what we do. Currently we get $13 billion a year from the federal government for healthcare. They say the federal government will cut that. We say, ìNo, they're not going to cut it,î but even if they do -- let's say their numbers are right -- they say after eight or ten years we'll have to raise the tax. So here's your choice, Ryan, you can continue paying 20 percent increases to the out-of-state insurance companies every year for ten years, or maybe in seven or eight years we'll have to ask the voters of Colorado to raise the tax. If they like ColoradoCare, they'll do it. If they don't, fine, they won't and we can go back to the tender mercies of the out-of-state insurance companies.

RW: Cody?

CB: So I think a couple of things that are important to note here. The Colorado Health Institute did a great analysis that looked at the best-case scenario, the worst-case scenario, and then the most likely scenario. I think what's important to note, Ryan, is that the numbers that you quote, the $8 billion deficit ten years out is actually their most likely scenario, not their worst-case scenario. I think what's critical about ColoradoCare is the fact that there are so many unknowns. The costs are a significant unknown and an important topic, but I think what's equally important is to recognize we don't actually know what we get for the healthcare dollars that we're spending. Out of twelve pages of text there are only eleven lines that describe what the benefits are under ColoradoCare. They're big categories of things like inpatient hospitalization and prescription drugs and end-of-life care, but they provide absolutely no detail about what the specific benefit levels are or what the specific drugs are, and so it's very difficult for people to look at that and to know whether what they'll get for their tax dollar is worth it.

RW: So T.R. Reid, if I'm listening to this and I'm on -- I don't know -- finasteride or Coumadin or something like that -- 

TR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: And I look at this and I say, "That drug doesn't appear in the amendment," what's going to be covered? How do you answer that?

TR: You're much better off with ColoradoCare. This is -- as you mentioned -- they talk about the $25 billion but not the $36 billion we're paying now.

RW: But to the specifics of coverage -- 

TR: Yeah, and they talk about risk. The risk is with the private insurers because their plans say we can change terms at any time. Get this -- with ColoradoCare, under federal law, we're required to provide at least as good coverage as the Silver Plan -- that's the mid-level plan in ObamaCare. This is the only plan other than Medicare that will be required by law to guarantee its benefits. So there's much less risk. And again, I say, compared to what? You call this risky that we have to meet -- comply with federal law? It's riskier to go with private insurers that say right in their plan, We can change the terms at any time. 

RW: We're going to take a break. There's much more to say and, in fact, this creates something of a new election in Colorado that would have to happen because members of ColoradoCare would have to make decisions, and we'll talk about that aspect of this and also where your campaign's money is coming from. We are debating Amendment 69 on the ballot, ColoradoCare is how you may know it. Back in just a moment on CPR News. You're back with Colorado Matters from CPR News. I'm Ryan Warner and we are debating today Amendment 69 on your fall ballot. This is to create ColoradoCare, a taxpayer funded universal health plan. And we're joined by a supporter of this, T.R. Reid, with ColoradoCare, and Cody Belzley with Coloradans for Coloradans, which is a major opposition group. And I want to focus a little bit on how ColoradoCare lives alongside Medicaid and Medicare, these existing programs. I know that Cody you have some concerns in that regard. 

CB: So this is a, not a true single payer proposal or a true universal proposal in the sense that nearly 20 percent of Coloradans at a minimum will be excluded from coverage, yet taxed for this new system. Seniors who are Medicare eligible will continue to receive their Medicare coverage but will pay into this new system. 

RW: And T.R. has said before the break, he thinks that's a good thing that everyone is invested. But keep going.

CB: I think the other thing that's important to note is that through an uncertain federal waiver process, this new system would take over Medicaid and would redirect federal and state funding sources to this new entity that exists outside the checks and balances of our state government, not accountable to the governor, not accountable to the state legislature. And will take responsibility without accountability.

RW:  What do you think that could mean for Medicaid patients? What's your fear? And this is the poor, this is children. 

CB: Absolutely. I think like so many aspects of Amendment 69, we simply don't know what this will look like. There are two federal waivers that would be required to implement Amendment 69 and the reality is, these are large and complex negotiations that would be taking place between this new entity, ColoradoCare, and a new administration, regardless of who wins the election in November, we know that there will be new leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services. We don't know how long it will take to navigate that process, we don't know whether or not it's even possible.

RW:  So address these concerns about Medicaid in particular, T.R. Reid, because I understand one concern is that low income individuals might have to shell out money ahead of time and then be reimbursed for Medicaid. Is that possible?

TR: No. Under Federal Law you can't charge somebody under the Medicaid level for health insurance so we can't charge them. Here's the deal. We cover, ColoradoCare will cover everybody up to age 65 and then seniors stay on Medicare. Veterans like me can stay on the VA if they want to or use ColoradoCare. As Cody said, we have to go to Medicaid and prove that we have a system that works. If they donít accept that, then the system will never start. So that's a pretty good safeguard. But here's the best thing. We're going to pay the same rate for everybody to the doctor so that finally, under ColoradoCare, the poor kid's asthma attack and the rich kid's asthma attack will be treated exactly the same. The doctor will get the same money for treating them. We think that's more American than the system we have now where the doctor gets less.

RW: Because right now doctors are reimbursed at a different rate if you've got private insurance or if you've got government backed insurance. 

TR: Much lower. Yeah. Don't you think we ought to pay the doctor the same for the poor kid's earache as the rich kid's earache? That's our principle. 

RW: Let me just pushback on that. Is it safe to assume that whatever that amount will be is enough to keep doctors interested and in the state? And hospitals for that matter, in business?

TR: Yeah. As a matter of fact, if you look at contributions, you're going to talk about contributions later, most of the opponents money, about 98 percent comes from out of state insurance companies. Hundreds and hundreds of doctors, hundreds of nurses and other practitioners have contributed to our campaign and you know why, Ryan? Doctors like the fact that everybody finally will have health insurance. They like the fact that everyone who walks in the door will be insured because Ö

RW: But will they be amply paid? It's one thing to support the idea of that, and it's another thing to say Ö

TR: Well certainly anybody who's treating Medicaid will be because they're going to get much more. In our budget plan, in our business plan, we estimated that we would pay providers 133-155 percent of what Medicare pays. And I have had some doctors say oh my god, I can't get away with that. But most doctors say that's better than the contracts they have with private insurers. 

RW: Cody?

CB: So that is completely inconsistent with what the Colorado Medical Society, the largest professional association of Colorado's doctors say. They've actually taken the position opposed to Amendment 69 because they're very concerned that this new system, the business plan that Mr. Reid references, which has been debunked by independent experts at the Colorado Health Institute, won't be. The revenue won't be adequate to ensure reimbursement levels that will guarantee access to care. I think whether it's the uncertainties of reimbursement levels and therefore the impact on access to care, or the uncertainties about benefits or the uncertainties about long-term costs, the reality is Mr. Reid and the proponents have a vision for what this will look like, but we have no assurance that the system or the plan will play out the way they hope it will. I applaud their good intentions but for $25 billion there's simply too much at stake for Coloradans to vote yes on Amendment 69.

RW: T.R. Reid, Vermont of course tried to go down this path. And it's a smaller state, it's a more homogenous state. Which presumably could make unveiling something like this a bit easier. Why would it work in Colorado when Vermont ran into issues?

TR: They screwed it up. They had a good plan, designed by a guy at Harvard and then it went to their legislature and guess what, their legislature larded it up with everything any doctor wanted to do. They had Botox in there. And they ended up, it was so expensive and they only have 620,000 people, it's really not a big enough insurance people to make this work. They ended up with a tax of 11.5%. Our tax on the worker is 3.3%. We're a bigger insurance pool and I think this is a feature, not a bug. We don't let the legislature mess around with this. It's going to be run by a board of people elected by Coloradans, run by Colorado citizens, not like the private insurance companies, and the legislature can't step in and mess it up. To me that's a good thing.

RW: And in fact you have to create something of a new election system so that all these Coloradans who would be a part of ColoradoCare can make decisions as members of the system. Does that get pretty harried, do you think, T.R.?

TR: I don't think so. I mean a lot of cooperatives, all the IREAs, etcetera, REI, a lot of cooperatives have elections for their board. What this says is there are seven healthcare districts, you elect three members, your neighbors, from each of the districts. And again I say compared to what? The decisions on healthcare today are made by executives in Minnesota, Indiana, Connecticut. There's not a single Coloradan on those boards. ColoradoCare will be run by all Coloradans, elected by Coloradans.

RW: Cody?

CB: So let's be really clear. This is not a co-op. What is being created is a political subdivision of the state that will operate by a totally different set of rules than our existing state government entities. Outside the purview and control of the governor or the legislature, twenty-one elected politicians will be responsible for making critically important decisions about your healthcare benefits, about what your doctors and hospitals get paid and ultimately about what you pay in taxes to fund this new healthcare system. The only requirements --

RW: You presumably have a vote, you have a vote in their decisions, don't you?

CB: Members. Members of ColoradoCare have a vote and I want to be very clear. The definition of who is eligible.

TR: That's everybody.

CB: No. The definition of who is eligible to vote in a Colorado care election does not match the definition of who is eligible to vote in a typical Colorado election. This is the reason why they'll need to maintain a separate voter file and implement their own elections process outside the control of the Secretary of State and the county commissioners. We have no guarantee that these elections will be held in a manner or a fashion that we're used to in terms of the integrity and transparency of these elections. 

TR: Everybody who pays the tax gets to vote. That seems fair to me. 

RW: And so not necessarily those drawing benefits. Because again you can be paying into this and not drawing benefits.

TR: Yeah, everybody who's covered gets to vote. Everybody in Colorado gets to vote. 

RW: I want to say that many conservatives also oppose Colorado care in part because they see it as a major government program. We talked with Americans for Prosperity's Colorado director Michael Fields. He acknowledged that some people are happy today with Medicare:

[plays recording of Michael Fields]

"But government also runs Medicaid, runs the VA system, and it doesn't have a great track record on those and so I think yeah, they're going to push towards calling it Medicare For All but I think when you look at it, if doctors only had the choice to serve people with Medicare, Medicaid, they wouldn't really be in business, a lot of them. And so I think you're going to see a lot of doctors leave the state. I think you're going to see a lot of businesses not come here. Not only because of the tax hike, but because of the quality of care that you would get here, versus other places."

RW: To employers in particular, they pay, I think about 6.7 percent is that right? T.R. Reid?

TR:  Yeah. Yes. Right. 

RW: What are you hearing from employers?

TR: Well according to the Colorado business group on health, employers today who provide health care, are paying about 12 percent of payroll for health insurance. So we have hundreds of employers around the state who have joined Business for ColoradoCare because they figured out, for example, the head of Beau Jo's Pizza, you know that chain, Scott [], he's got hundreds of employees and he said you know, his accountant told him he's paying 13 percent now for health insurance. He'll get better coverage for half that price. He signed up. So for most employers, this is going to be a good deal.

RW:  And to the point that we heard Michael Fields at least allude to, and Cody I think make more clearly, that there is a government run aspect to this, a lack of popular control in it. What do say?

TR:  Well there's much more popular control because it's run by a board of people elected in Colorado. Currently, health care decisions are made by companies in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Bloomfield, Connecticut. We have no control over them. 

CB: I want to respond to the small business piece or the business impact piece because I think it's critically important. We know that Colorado is a small business state. More than 80 percent of our companies are run by entrepreneurs and innovators who are creating jobs in Colorado. We know that this small business community will be doubly impacted by ColoradoCare because they're responsible, not just for the payroll tax but for the non-payroll tax on their business income. If their business is set up as an LLC, an LLP, a partnership or a sole-proprietorship. So the tax burden is particularly onerous on our smallest of businesses, on our entrepreneurs.

RW: Aren't you focusing on the front and not the back. That is to say, yes, but also isn't, aren't there savings to be had? Because they're not providing insurance as they are today.

CB: Some small businesses are providing insurances today and will see an offset in the tax increase. However we don't know what they will get for the tax dollars they're paying because there are so many uncertainties about what the benefits are, what the access to care will look like and we also don't know what the long-term cost of implementing ColoradoCare will be. 

TR: Well we know they'll get --

CB: The $25 billion tax increase is a starting point. And if you believe the Colorado Health Institute's independent analysis, you know that this tax increase will be insufficient to meet the ongoing costs and so this is a starting point for the costs of ColoradoCare, not an end point.

RW: T.R. Reid, I want you to address something that I'm hearing as a them from Cody Belzley, which is uncertainty. And so if Coloradans look at this ballot measure and they go, gosh, maybe there's a lot of good stuff here, but there are also a lot of unanswered questions. What do you say to them?

TR: Again, I say compared to what? Currently we get our health insurance from out of state companies. We have zero control over them. All their plans say we can change the terms at any time. With ColoradoCare we are required by federal law to meet at least the needs of a silver plan under Obama Care. That's a guarantee it's less risk.

RW:  But you are putting this into the state constitution and if there's one thing we know about state constitutional amendments, it's that they're a bit brittle. 

TR:  Well it can't get into the constitution unless people vote for it, right? So if people then want to change it, they'll vote for that. I don't see the difference. If people want to have everybody covered for less cost, they'll vote for it. If they then want to change something in it, they'll vote for it. 

CB: I have to say, I think it's really irresponsible to be so cavalier in talking about changing the state's constitution. Anyone who's lived in Colorado for any amount of time knows about TABOR, Amendment 23, the Gallagher Amendment. Regardless of what you think of the content of those policies, almost all Coloradans agreed that putting large and complex policies into our state's constitution has created real challenges from a budgeting and governing perspective and Amendment 69 would only serve to further complicate an already full and complicated constitution.

RW: All right. Cody Belzley, you've got a broad coalition and yet much of the money you've raised comes from a few sources. Your campaign has about $4 million behind it. A million from Anthem, based in Ohio, and at least half a million from Kaiser Permanente in California. ColoradoCare would no doubt hurt insurance companies, so they'd have a financial stake in defeating it. Are Colorado voters being manipulated into opposing it by companies with a financial stake in the outcome?

CB: Not at all. We have no reason to hide who our donors are. We have complied with every transparency measure required by the state and we appreciate the financial contributions. Not just from the companies that have supported us but the more than 55 percent of our contributions have come in small dollar increments of $100 or less from Coloradans like you and me, Ryan, who understand the risks of Amendment 69.

RW: I just want to be clear that I have not contributed. 

CB: Well, excuse me, I apologize, but everyday Coloradans who have made small dollar contributions to our campaign because they understand the risks of this proposal. I think what's most important to look at is not just who has contributed to the campaign but who has taken a formal position more than 1700 Coloradans and small businesses and organizations who we know and trust organizations, like the Colorado Medical Society, Children's Hospital Colorado, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, have come out against Amendment 69 because they know the risks that it poses to our healthcare system and our economy. 

RW: So, T.R., ColoradoCare Yes has much less money in the bank. You do have the support of Senator Bernie Sanders, who is popular among Democrats, who caucused in Colorado. He hopes Colorado will create a model will create a model that could spread across the country. To wrap up, the governor, for instance, the state's chief executive has come out opposed to ColoradoCare. What does that tell us about this?

TR:  You know we're not a partisan effort. We are appealing to the people of Colorado. As for funding, 98 percent of the other side's money comes from out of state insurance companies. They have a great deal going. They don't want competition from an in-state company. 

RW: But to this idea that the state's chief executive, says don't go down this path, voters.

TR:  I think there's two things going on there. The insurance companies hired lobbyists who said to the state legislature, if you'll come out against universal healthcare, we'll take care of your campaign coffers. I think that is a factor. And the other thing is I think politicians are afraid of being accused of socialized medicine. This is not socialized medicine. It's the same private doctor, hospital, lab you use now but whenever you try to change things, the insurance companies say oh my god, socialized medicine because they want to keep their monopoly. And if you vote no, you're letting them do it.

RW:  T.R., I want to be very clear on the accusation you're making. Are you saying that the governor is making that decision based on his funders? Because we're going to have to check that. 

TR: No, I donít know who's giving money to the funders. I do know because a friend of mine was in the meeting, that a lobbyist said to the legislators, if you'll come out against this universal healthcare plan, we'll help you out.

CB: I think you should look into that, Ryan. I think the reality is many people, many elected officials from all sides of the political spectrum, have looked at this policy, have understood the risks that it poses to Colorado and have come out against it because of the uncertainty in the proposal. The details of the policy. Not because they disagree necessarily with the concept or the idea, but the details of Amendment 69 are deeply concerning to people of all political stripes.

RW:  You heard there, T.R. Reid, longtime journalist and author who now leads the campaign for Amendment 69 on Colorado's ballot. It would establish a new taxpayer funded insurance program for all. We also heard from Cody Belzley, a consultant with the NO Campaign called Coloradans for Coloradans. You can hear our other ballot measure debates, medically assisted death, for instance, and minimum wage at This is Colorado Matters.