Are Colorado Doctors Really Opposed to Amendment 63?

Colorado Medical Society member doctors are split over the Affordable Care Act. This begs the question then: did the CMS also survey its more than 7,000 members on Colorado Amendment 63?
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The Colorado Medical Society (CMS) had its annual meeting in early September, and the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (H.R. 3590, aka ObamaCare) was a focus of the gathering. The CMS apparently surveyed its membership, and according to an excellent Colorado Public Radio news piece, around half of CMS member doctors think the federal health care law "will make health care worse, not better," around a third say the law "will make health care better," and the rest call it "a mixed bag" or are not sure.

In other words, CMS member doctors are split over the Affordable Care Act. This begs the question then: did the CMS also survey its more than 7,000 members on Colorado Amendment 63, the "Right to Health Care Choice" citizen's amendment, before making an official endorsement against 63?

For those unfamiliar with Amendment 63, if passed by Colorado voters in November this ballot initiative would write into the Colorado Constitution that the State of Colorado cannot force its citizens to purchase a public or private health insurance product, either on its own, or on behalf of the federal government. In other words, Colorado would not be able to implement a Massachusetts-style insurance mandate (aka Romney Care), nor participate in enforcement of the federal health insurance mandate passed as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The amendment would also constitutionally protect fee-for-service health care by ensuring the right to choose to pay out of pocket for health care services and products. This means even if Colorado were to implement a single payer health care system, Coloradans would be free to engage in voluntary exchange with a health care provider outside the system.

According to the website of the campaign against Amendment 63, Colorado Deserves Better, the CMS is opposing 63 because, "This costly amendment would limit Colorado's ability to expand health care coverage. That means the cost shift from providing care to the uninsured will grow, and health care costs will continue to spiral out of control."

This "cost shift" argument against 63 is both incorrect and misleading. As the Independence Institute's Brian Schwartz has pointed out, the cost shift is "trivial compared to how much mandatory insurance increases premiums." For example, in Massachusetts, which has had an insurance mandate since 2006, the most affordable plans sold through that state's insurance exchange "cost almost three times more than those available in Fort Collins."

But flawed arguments aside, the CMS endorsement against 63 could easily be seen as a reflection of a consensus among its doctor members. It's not clear that this is the case.

For example, here is a comment left on the HuffPost Denver from Paul Hsieh, MD, a CMS member doctor from Sedalia, Colorado:

The mandatory insurance idea forming the core of ObamaCare has already been tried -- and failed -- in Massachusetts, resulting only in skyrocketing health costs, a desperate shortage of doctors, and significantly longer waits for medical care than in the rest of the country. Some Massachusetts patients must now wait almost a year for a routine physical exam.

As a practicing physician, such Massachusetts-style problems are the last thing I want here in Colorado. Colorado voters can avoid the mistakes of Massachusetts by supporting Amendment 63.

So while an organizational decision has been made at some level by the Colorado Medical Society to oppose Amendment 63, it is an open question as to whether the CMS ever actually surveyed its membership on Amendment 63, and whether there is any more or less a consensus among CMS member doctors concerning Amendment 63 as there is concerning the Affordable Care Act.

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