By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
The leader of a local libertarian group is making plans for a 2010 ballot initiative that would exempt Coloradans from a possible federal mandate requiring all citizens to buy insurance or pay a penalty.
Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, is taking aim at health care reform legislation heading through Congress. Both the House and Senate versions — which is headed into difficult negotiations — includes individual mandates for purchasing health care.
Caldara — who attempted a similar initiative in 2008 but failed due to a lack of financial interest — said Coloradans shouldn’t be required to purchase an insurance plan forced on them by lawmakers in Congress.
“We’re setting up a battle between who gets to call the shots when it comes to policy for health care in Colorado — is it Colorado or is it D.C.?” asked Caldara. “I believe that people in Colorado want an opportunity to have the final say of ‘ObamaCare’ here in Colorado.”
Proponents say they want to wait until a final bill makes its way to the President for his signature before they finalize the language of the initiative. But they believe some sort of reform will make its way through Congress, and are therefore acting now.
At the heart of the initiative is to exempt Coloradans from the individual mandate and ensure that they can pay cash for health care expenses. Caldara and his supporters are also examining allowing cross-state purchasing of insurance products as part of the initiative.
Questions, however, have already been raised as to whether the initiative would be only symbolic in nature because federal legislation would supersede a state amendment. Caldara believes the Constitution gives states the right to choose. His opponents disagree.
Dede de Percin, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said her organization was cautious about supporting the proposal for individual mandates before they decided on backing the provision. But because the proposal is coupled with “strong consumer protections” and regulations on the insurance industry, as well as “robust” subsidies, de Percin said her organization was able to support the proposal.
She does not believe it is healthy to cherry pick specific aspects of the reform effort just to attack it.
“It is certainly bad policy and doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense to try to peel out one piece of a comprehensive strategy to health care reform that is very much interwoven and interlocked,” said de Percin.
Meanwhile, conservative state lawmakers are also examining what they can do from a legislative end to attack health reform. Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, told the Denver Daily News recently that he believes a federal mandate would violate state rights. He said he would consider a state constitutional amendment that would ban the federal mandate. Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, has also said she would push for legislation that would take Colorado out of the federal reform component.
But Michael Huttner, executive director of the liberal ProgressNow group, called Caldara and his supporters “pawns” and a “puppets” for suggesting such an initiative.
“Caldara is little more than a pawn of the health insurance industry, and that’s why he’s been part of the whole effort to kill any health care reform,” said Huttner. “He’s a puppet of the health care industry, and it’s unfortunate that he would deprive so many people in Colorado who are uninsured or underinsured.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters