Hundreds turn out for 'Free our health care' rally at state Capitol

By Jimy Valenti

Lisa Hill’s tattered and torn poster proclaiming “Gov. of, by and for the people” has seen these steps before. The self-proclaimed tea party member drove an hour and a half from Pine to the Capitol in an effort to “stop socialized medicine.”

Independence Institute President Jon Caldara addresses the rally.
Photo by Brad Jones
The Colorado Statesman

Along with Hill, hundreds turned out in support of the “Free Our Health Care” rally on Tuesday, supporting a proposed ballot initiative that would exempt Colorado from federal health care reform.

“Hell No! Colorado won’t go!” shouted Jon Caldara, president of the Golden-based conservative think tank, the Independence Institute, in his speech to supporters.

Caldara, along with Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, organized the rally to garner support for a state constitutional amendment that would bar federal coverage mandates in Colorado and legislation legally allowing Colorado to opt-out of the federal health care bill.

According to Caldara, their goal was to send a message to Colorado’s lawmakers that the fight over health care has moved from Washington D.C. to Denver. He said that if state legislators don’t stop federally mandated healthcare then Colorado’s voters will do it at the ballot box.

The proposed ballot initiative says neither state nor federal government can mandate that someone purchase health insurance or participate in any public or private health care plan. It also permits people to purchase insurance across state lines.

Colorado’s Legislative Council and Secretary of State must approve Caldara’s ballot initiative, then 76,000 signatures are needed from registered voters to get it on the ballot next November.

Supporters of the Independence Institute's proposed initiative campaign see regulation of health care as a state issue under the Tenth Amendment.
Photo by Brad Jones/The Colorado Statesman

If the ballot initiative is approved, it will likely face lengthy court battles due to the “Supremacy Clause” in the US Constitution, which says federal law is superior to state law.

According to Acree, her resolution to Congress acknowledges that under the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states are sovereign and Colorado may opt out of a federal health care program.

The 10th amendment was a common theme in Tuesday’s rally. Speakers also included Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, local neurosurgeon Dr. Sanat Dixit and conservative radio personality and the head of the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity, Jeff Crank. They spoke about striking down any health care reform mandated by the federal government.

Ed Kahn, a lawyer with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, said he doesn’t believe the ballot initiative or legislation to exempt Colorado from a federal health care bill has any legal validity and said that these measures are an attempt to whip up support by insurance companies and opponents of national health care.

“Congress clearly has the power to pass a bill like this,” said Kahn. “The last time somebody seceded from the union was about 150 years ago.”

Republican state Rep. Cindy Acree is sponsoring legislation that would assert Colorado’s Tenth Amendment right to opt out of a federal health care system.
Photo by Brad Jones/The Colorado Statesman

Dede de Perci, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said that the proposed ballot initiative and legislation is premature because a final federal bill has not been passed.

“I’m concerned about opting out of something that doesn’t yet exist!” said House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver.

According to de Perci, this opt-out strategy is purely political. She said around 26 states are currently proposing similar tactics.

“This is clearly a nationally driven movement, and nationally focused and not about Colorado values, Colorado families and communities,” said de Perci.

Caldara concluded his speech by saying this fight is not political, but personal. He said the quality health care in this country would diminish if federal reforms were enacted. Caldara, who lost a daughter to cancer and whose son has Down syndrome, said this fight is for his son’s life.

“I am not strong enough,” said Caldara. “I am not man enough to lose another child.”