Universal health-care proposal withdrawn

DENVER – The Colorado Legislature is expected to advance a bill to expand Medicaid coverage for needy adults despite the death of a much more ambitious proposal Friday.

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, a physician, had introduced a bill which would have made Colorado the first state with universal health care. It would have directed the state to abandon Medicare and Medicaid, instead enacting a 9 percent payroll tax to generate about $16 million to pay for the nation’s first single-payer coverage plan, which Aguilar called the Colorado Health Care Cooperative. The change would have required a two-thirds vote by both houses of the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot, and Aguilar conceded Friday she didn’t have enough support.

“We already pay for everyone in our state to get access to health care,” she said. “What I want us to do is pay for health care wisely.”

The expansion of Medicaid fared better, winning preliminary approval on a voice vote. It faces final Senate approval before being sent to the House. Both houses are controlled by Democrats. Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he is in favor of the expansion, which would add childless adults to the program as part of the new federal Affordable Care Act. Under that act, popularly known as Obamacare, the federal government pays for the bulk of the expansion.

Republicans say they fear Colorado could face higher costs in the future and generally oppose expansion of government’s role in health care.

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