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Universal health care to appear on Colorado ballot in 2016

The plan would make Colorado the first state to replace federal health law with taxpayer-funded coverage for all

Supporters of universal health care have gathered enough signatures to put on next year's ballot a plan to make Colorado the first state to opt out of the federal health law and replace it with taxpayer-funded coverage for all.

Proponents submitted 158,831 qualified signatures, about 60,000 more than required to put the measure on the ballot, Secretary of State Wayne Williams said Monday. The question would make Colorado the first state to opt out of the federal Affordable Care Act and replace it with universal health care.

The campaign is expected to face intense opposition and could make for a heavily funded, highly visible debate over the viability of single-payer health care in a key swing state in the 2016 presidential election.

Vermont lawmakers passed universal health care in 2011. But three years later, the state abandoned the plan as too expensive.

A Harris Poll released in early September found 63 percent of Americans to 21 percent majority favors a universal health care system. And a 76 percent majority also agreed that since most other advanced countries can afford to provide universal health insurance, so could the United States.

The ColoradoCareYES campaign says employers would have to pay a new tax — about 7 percent of a worker's wages into the health co-op, on top of deductions for Social Security and Medicare. Employees would have a payroll tax of about 3 percent. Both employers and workers then would not have to pay premiums to a private health insurer.

Residents would choose their own health-care providers but ColoradoCare would pay the bills, according to the Denver Post.

The ColoradoCaresYes campaign says those taxes would raise enough money to cover children and adults who do not work. They say the plan will cost $3 billion a year but will save $9 billion in health care administration costs compared with the current system.

Skeptics say costs would run out of control.

"A single-payer system would destroy our industry. I don't think there's any question about it," Byron McCurdy, board president of the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters told the Post. He said almost one-fifth of all Colorado jobs are associated with the health-care industry.

Al Jazeera with The Associated Press

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