06 October, 2016
Voters in the western state of Colorado will decide next month if they want their state to have a single-payer health care system.
Under such a system, private health insurance companies would no longer operate in the state. The government would pay all health care costs from a new tax.
In some countries, health care workers are government employees. Under the Colorado plan, doctors would still work for themselves or for hospitals or clinics. But the government – not their patients or private health insurance companies – would pay them. That money would come largely from a new 10 percent income tax.
Most older Americans currently get health care from a government-paid system called Medicare. And many poor people in the U.S. get health care from a government-paid system called Medicaid.
However, those who oppose Colorado's plan say they do not want the government to become involved in their health care.
Irene Aguilar is a state senator and a medical doctor. She tried four times over seven years in the state legislature to reform the health care system. She did not succeed.
But she was successful in the effort to gather enough signatures to force the state to permit voters to decide the issue directly.
"Americans need to get over the idea that health care can somehow be treated as a commodity. It just can't."
Senator Aguilar says the plan would cost $25 billion every year. But she says the state now spends $30 billion a year on health care.
She says the plan would give health care to 350,000 Coloradans who do not now have health insurance, and to 870,000 who have health insurance that is not very good.
Julie Perla is working full-time to try to convince people to vote for the plan. She knows it will not be easy.
"We have such opposition from corporations and billionaires that are opposing this..."
Opponents of the plan have been paying to put many advertisements on television stations. They say the plan would double the state's budget and harm peoples' health.
They say patients would be forced to wait for a long time before a doctor could care for them. And, they say it will hurt communities where small-business owners would be affected by the new income tax.
Dr. Erin Sain is one small-business owner who does not want a single-payer system to be put in place.
She says the small dental practice she opened five years ago in the small mountain town of Silverthorne will be hurt. And she says one statewide system does not have enough power to fight the high cost of healthcare and drugs.
She also says such a system will not have the power that large national insurance companies have to force drug companies to lower their prices.
Dr. Sain has been writing about her opposition to the plan in her local newspaper. She has also been talking to her patients about it.
Most public opinion surveys show that a majority of voters will reject the planned system.
I'm Ashley Thompson.
VOA's Katherine Gypson reported this story from Denver, Colorado. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
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Words in This Story
insurance - n. an agreement in which an individual makes payments to a company and the company promises to pay money if the person dies or is injured
clinic - n. a medical center
income - adj. of or related to money that is earned from work or investments
get over - v. to move on
commodity - n. something that is bought and sold
convince - v. to persuade; to cause someone to believe something
corporation - n. a large business