Opinion

Silverii: Doing the right thing isn’t always easy

Author: Ian Silverii - August 19, 2016 - Updated: August 19, 2016

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ProgressNow Colorado Executive Director Ian Silverii
ProgressNow Colorado Executive Director Ian Silverii

As readers may have heard in the news, on television or on the radio, the Board of Directors of ProgressNow Colorado has voted to oppose Amendment 69, the “ColoradoCare” health care ballot measure, despite our broad agreement with the ColoradoCare campaign’s stated goals.

I wanted to take a moment to explain why we made this difficult decision, and why it’s important to keep fighting for further health care reform across America. Six years ago, ProgressNow Colorado worked with our members and Colorado’s progressive political leaders to help pass the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. “Obamacare.” After Obamacare passed, ProgressNow Colorado developed the award-winning “Thanks Obamacare” and “Got Insurance?” media campaigns to educate the public about the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

Even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded access to health care for millions of Americans, we know more work is needed to ensure every American is covered with access to affordable, quality health care. Too many Coloradans remain uninsured and underinsured. As a result, far too many people in this country die prematurely from preventable and treatable conditions.

The truth is, nothing would make progressives in Colorado happier than taking a bold step toward single-payer health care. Profit-motivated insurance companies are disincentivized from putting cost controls into place, and we still have gaps in coverage that prevent real people from getting access to the health care they need every day in Colorado. Unfortunately, the constitutional amendment proposed in Amendment 69 has real policy problems that its supporters did not anticipate.

Independent studies from NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado and the nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute revealed significant unintended consequences that could result from the passage of Amendment 69. Due to pre-existing language in our state’s constitution, Amendment 69 could cut off access to abortion coverage for Colorado women. And the best available fiscal analysis of Amendment 69 shows it will be a huge burden on the state budget, running 10-year deficits of $7.5 billion, threatening other priorities like education and transportation.

I want to make it perfectly, crystal clear, that ProgressNow Colorado did not, and would not take a dime of funding from any special interest to oppose Amendment 69. We did so because of the real problems with the measure that could do real harm to real Coloradans if enacted in its current form.

Being progressive means using all of the best available data to make the best policy decisions for our state and our nation. Being progressive does not mean blindly supporting concepts despite details that could not only hurt real people and have real unintended consequences but could also set important issues back decades when poorly drafted legislation becomes the case study of important progressive priorities like national universal single-payer health care. Being progressive means being a policy wonk and a nerd and caring about the particulars of policy, because when you get those wrong real people get hurt.

While we agree with supporters of Amendment 69 that more reform is needed, the truth is that Obamacare is a huge success in Colorado. Via the state’s visionary Medicaid expansion and the launch of the Connect for Health Colorado insurance marketplace, we have cut the uninsured rate in our state in half. Instead of abandoning the tremendous progress we’ve made in Colorado in recent years, we need to focus on protecting the gains we’ve already made — and building on that progress, instead of starting from scratch.

Let’s move forward in 2017 with reform on a national level and let the success we’ve already enjoyed in Colorado be a model to be proud of.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge this was a difficult decision. I share the goals and passion of the supporters of Amendment 69 for truly universal health care.

Working together, we can do this right for all Americans. That’s our stand.

Ian Silverii

Ian Silverii

Ian Silverii is executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, a left-leaning advocacy organization. Prior to that, he served as chief of staff to Colorado Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and was legislative director for the Colorado House majority Democrats in the 2013 legislative session.