Caldara declares ‘game on’ as curtains rise on ‘Obamacare’ opening act

As health reform legislation begins taking effect in Colorado and around the country, the Colorado Secretary of State Thursday deemed the signatures submitted for the “Right to Health Care Choice (pdf)” ballot initiative sufficient. Coming after a series of legal battles tied to the initiative, the secretary of state’s sign-off today means the proposal will now appear on the November ballot as Amendment 63. The amendment seeks to block aspects of the federal health care legislation passed in the spring– mainly the key provision that seeks to lower costs by requiring all citizens to buy insurance. In the words of libertarian-conservative Independence Institute think tank President Jon Caldara, who is also chairman of the Health Care Choice for Colorado Issue Committee, the amendment would “protect Coloradans from the ongoing takeover of health care by government” and establish Colorado as a health care “sanctuary state.”

Armed with Thursday’s news from the secretary of state, Caldara was jubilant and defiant.

“To all the interest groups that have worked so hard to keep us off the ballot, I’ve got three words for you: game on baby.”

A draft of Caldara’s initiative was first submitted in June to Colorado legislative council, not quite three months after the health reform legislation passed. For almost all of that time, however, the initiative was in the works behind the scenes at the Independence Institute and a subject of heated political posturing as one of a series of similarly brewing proposals introduced or not-yet-introduced around the country.

Once introduced, the lawsuits came fast and furious. One in Colorado challenged the name of Caldara’s amendment as misleading. (Who would be against “the right to health care choice”?) Caldara fired back with his own suit challenging new rules surrounding the ballot initiative process, which he said hobbled early efforts to gather signatures. Caldara won both legal battles. Should the amendment pass, it would likely come under more legal fire, with attorneys prepping here and around the country to test whether Caldara’s amendment and similar laws could withstand charges that they unconstitutionally trample on federal authority.

Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, a major supporter of the new legislation, welcomes the health care “game” Caldara wants to play in the public arena. Of course that game has been playing out already for weeks if not months.

When Caldara submitted his signatures in support of the initiative to the secretary of state two weeks ago, she told 9News, in effect, that Caldara’s ideological proposal was tilting at imaginary evils and that it wouldn’t stand up when matched against the services the new legislation actually would begin to deliver (pdf) on the ground.

It’s hard to imagine that there are too many Colorado seniors who don’t want the Medicare donut hole closed, parents who don’t want their children to have coverage as young adults, patients with pre-existing conditions who don’t want to finally get insurance or families and small business owners who aren’t interested in actually being able to afford coverage. But if there are, it’s certainly [Caldara’s] right to try and find them.

Brian Schwartz, blogging at the Independence Institute’s “Patient Power” site, derided DeGette’s case, arguing that the benefits she’s talking about amount to handouts to seniors and twenty-somethings and others that will only serve to increase the deficit.

OF course seniors want the Medicare “donut hole” closed. It means they pay less for prescription medications because current or future taxpayers will pay the bill. This also perpetuates a core problem with health care in the U.S.: patients are insulated from the true cost of their care.

Addressing pre-existing conditions with insurance price controls (community rating and guaranteed issue) encourages insurers to act like slumlords who design their products such that sick people do not want them.

“parents who don’t want their children to have coverage as young adults”: she’s referring to the part of HR3590 that requires insurers to classify adults as old as 26 as “dependents” on one of their parent’s plans – if the parent wants their son or daughter on the plan. This will raise premiums by about 1%, says the Dept. of Health & Human Services.

Small business: As I blogged earlier, the health control bill will drown businesses in 1099 tax forms. New taxes on insurance premiums will disproportionately affect small businesses.

Fact checkers on all sides will have their work cut out for them as the issue campaigns heat up in the next eight weeks and positions turn into slogans that turn into accusations that turn into advertisements.

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