Best-selling author, filmmaker T.R. Reid to speak in Frisco on ColoradoCare | SummitDaily.com

Best-selling author, filmmaker T.R. Reid to speak in Frisco on ColoradoCare

Alli Langley
alangley@summitdaily.com

In the 1990s, T.R. Reid was a Washington Post foreign correspondent based in Japan, and his family, like everyone else's, sometimes needed to visit doctors.

Later, when he became the newspaper's London bureau chief, the family moved to the United Kingdom and experienced health care there.

"It's two completely different systems, but our experience was the same," he said. He, his wife and their three children received great care in modern facilities with little waiting time for a fraction of what they would've paid in the U.S.

He has written nine books in English and three in Japanese, and he ended up writing a New York Times best-selling book that compared health care in various countries called "The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care." The book became the 2008 PBS documentary "Sick Around the World."

"When I started looking, I realized all the other rich democracies cover everybody," he said. "It's a moral imperative that you provide health care for everybody. I don't understand why the world's richest country has never done this because we could do this."

For his most recent PBS film, "U.S. Health Care: The Good News," he traveled across the U.S. to study communities, including Mesa County, Colorado, that provide high-quality health care at far below-average costs.

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The Denver resident is now chairman of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care — the citizens campaign working to provide health care for every Coloradan through a 2016 ballot initiative that would create a system called ColoradoCare.

He will speak about this system at two events in Frisco on Tuesday, Sept. 8, starting with the Rotary Club of Summit County meeting at 7:30 a.m. at the county Community and Senior Center.

Reid will return to the center Tuesday night to speak with more people during an open house from 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., hosted by Frisco pediatrician Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos.

She said Reid will give the same talk he gave for the Rotary group at 6 p.m., followed by a 30-minute showing of his latest film at 7 p.m. and then the rest of the evening will be another talk, dicussion or Q&A, depending on audience preference.

She encouraged health-care workers, teachers and others in the community to stop by whenever they can and said she will have ColoradoCare informational materials as well as the ballot initiative petition available for people to sign.

HOW IT WORKS

ColoradoCare has been in the works for nearly 10 years and was born out of concern for the quality and cost of health care for the insured, underinsured and uninsured.

The proposal has since been vetted by economists and introduced as legislation by state senator and physician Irene Aguilar in 2013. The initiative was approved for the 2016 ballot in April and will appear if a petition receives roughly 98,500 signatures. Then, if the initiative passes, ColoradoCare would begin full operation in 2019.

Reid said he supports ColoradoCare for three reasons: It would cover every state resident, save billions in administrative costs and allow Colorado to opt out of Obamacare.

The system would prevent roughly 400 Colorado residents from dying each year because they lack access to quality health care, and the non-governmental, nonprofit, cooperatively-run system was designed in Colorado, he said.

"We don't need bureaucrats in Washington telling us how to run health care. We can do it ourselves," he said.

An economic analysis of the system reported that ColoradoCare's market power combined with much lower administration costs and fraud reduction would save employers about $3.1 billion, while residents would save about $1.7 billion, which would mean an average savings of $390 a year among those not currently on Medicaid.

All federal health-care programs — including Medicare and Medicaid — would remain in place, and residents would choose their providers.

"Doctors agree that everyone should have access to health care," Reid said. "Doctors are with us. Hospitals, they haven't taken a stand yet."

The system would be funded through Affordable Care Act state waiver funds, Medicaid waiver funds and a health-care premium tax on payroll and non-payroll income.

Employees would be taxed a 3.33 percent payroll deduction while employers would contribute 6.67 percent, for a total of 10 percent. That would mean for someone with an income of $50,000, the employer would pay $278 per month and the employee would pay $139 per month.

Self-employed people would pay 10 percent of their net, non-wage income, and much of Social Security and pension income would be exempt from the tax.

ColoradoCare would cover primary, specialty, emergency and hospital health care as well as prescriptions, mental health care and substance abuse treatment, limited long-term care, the medical portion of workers compensation and pediatric dental, vision and hearing care.

Deductibles would be eliminated as would co-payments for most primary care and preventative services.

'WHY NOT COLORADO?'

Advocates say the system would remove the anxiety and confusion of the current health-care system, give people more flexibility in job choice and separate health care from politics.

"Our plan works just like the public schools," Reid said, in that Coloradans pay for every child in the state to have access to a public education, and residents can still choose to send their children to private schools.

He said using ColoradoCare as a model for the rest of the U.S. is a standard move in American political history, as new policies often start at the state level, including women's suffrage, marriage for interracial and same-sex couples and marijuana legalization.

"Our theory is, 'Why not Colorado?'" he said. "I'm just trying to spread the word that we have a plan here that will work, that will save money and that can lead the whole country."

Voting against ColoradoCare is equal to voting for Obamacare, he said, which has been expensive and complicated and wasn't designed to provide health care for everyone.

"Colorado is a purple state, and this is a purple plan," he said, adding that he believes the ballot initiative will receive enough signatures for the 2016 vote. "I was pessimistic in June, but it's clear now we're going to make it. I'm thrilled about it."

A handful of other states are considering similar health-care models, with advocates also working to achieve voter approval next fall. Reid recently spoke in Oregon, where he said the new model's supporters are well-organized.

"We beat you to marijuana," he said he told them, "and we'll beat you to universal coverage."

IF YOU GO

What: Open house about ColoradoCare, a state-based, universal health care system on the 2016 ballot, with health-care policy author and filmmaker T.R. Reid

When: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Reid will speak at 6 p.m. and show his latest film, “U.S. Health Care: The Good News,” at 7 p.m. A Q&A discussion will follow.

Where: Summit County Community and Senior Center, 83 Nancy’s Place, Frisco, CO 80443

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