Letters to the Editor

Don’t let Amendment 35 dollars go up in smoke — health care reform is as important as the budget

An open Letter to the Governor and Members of the General Assembly:

Teachers sometimes refer to tough decisions as “teachable moments.” We would like to point out one such teachable moment occurring amidst the Legislature’s very challenging budget process, given our state’s significant budget deficit. We are concerned about the future of Colorado’s health care system, and like you, want to support fiscal decisions that protect all Coloradoans. Depleting Amendment 35 dollars may seem to provide temporary fiscal relief, when it actually ensures longer-term burden for Colorado taxpayers.

In 2004, by a 2 to 1 margin Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 35, an excise tax on tobacco products that currently funds four areas: Tobacco prevention and cessation programs; the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, and pulmonary diseases; comprehensive primary care through clinics; and public health insurance expansion. The legislature is currently considering SB 271 and SJR 35, which propose to dip into Amendment 35 funds to the tune of $35 million dollars, to assist with balancing our budget. It proposes to raid half of the Primary Care Fund that currently supports Community Health Centers and will jeopardize the care of 27,000 uninsured Coloradans. This decision is counter to voter intent and also to research-based practice in health care.

The teachable moment of this proposal reveals two significant themes for which we request your immediate attention: our broken, disparate health care system and our state’s unique Constitutional fiscal constraints. This proposal will essentially “rob Peter to pay Paul,” by divesting in disease prevention and early intervention programs which ensure reduced long term societal costs by preventing primary care from resulting in expensive emergency room visits. This proposal challenges the old adage “pay me now or pay me later,” because it promises that we pay now; and pay more again later.

We request you consider the urgency of simultaneous overall fiscal reform alongside broad health care reform.

With appreciation for your efforts on behalf of Colorado’s future,

Colorado Voices for Coverage