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Amendment 63 vs. The Unlicensed Vampire Alarmists

Does the Colorado Constitution guarantee the rights of violent criminals to be armed in prison or when released on parole? You might think so if you believe criticisms of Amendment 63.

Amendment 63 would prohibit the state from forcing you to buy a politician-approved health plan and protect your right to pay for medical care with your own money, rather than depending on a legal health plan.

Editorials by the Denver Post, the Grand Junction Sentinel, and the Aurora Sentinel have claimed that the Amendment would restrict the state’s ability to prevent medical professionals from practicing without a license. That sounds scary — as if the Amendment would allow a vampire to pose as a blood bank. But this accusation belongs with other Halloween tales.

Presumably, the newspaper editorial boards are echoing an issue brief by Alec Harris of the Colorado Center for Law and Policy:

Amendment 63 protects the right of “any person” to receive direct payment for lawful health care services. … For example, if any person has a constitutional right to receive payment, the state might not be able to regulate who provides health care services.

This hyper-literal interpretation of “any person” is absurd. If Harris’s extravagant theory were true, then the Colorado Constitution allows felons to carry guns, even when in prison. Section 13 of the Colorado Constitution’s Bill of Rights says (emphasis added):

Right to bear arms. The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons.

According to Harris, since the Colorado Constitution says that the right to keep and bear arms may be denied to “no person,” then the state must allow any person — even a convicted violent felon in prison or released on parole — to carry a gun.

Obviously that’s not the real law in Colorado. Colorado courts have upheld gun bans on convicted felons, and nobody claims that prisoners can carry guns.

You might suspect that Amendment 63’s critics are just looking for ways to scare voters. The words “any person” have to be read along with the rest of the text of Amendment 63, especially the words “lawful medical service.” Amendment 63 states:

No statute, regulation, resolution, or policy adopted or enforced by the state of Colorado, its departments and agencies … shall deny, restrict, or penalize the right or ability of any person to make or receive direct payments for lawful health care services. …
“Lawful health care services” means any service or treatment permitted or not prohibited by any provision of Colorado law.

A “service” cannot be separated from the person providing it. You cannot walk out of a drug store or medical clinic with a bag containing a “medical service,” like a tonsillectomy. Someone needs to provide the service. What makes a medical service lawful includes Colorado statutes against practicing medicine without a license.

The medical licensing argument against Amendment 63 is wrong and misleading. It needlessly scares voters and distracts them from the real issue. Mandatory insurance violates your right to to seek medical care and insurance according to your own best judgment. It overrides your judgment with politically-designed edicts.

Mandatory insurance also outlaws affordable insurance policies. It requires that all policies include costly benefits that you may not want, which adds a hidden tax to your insurance premiums. This hidden tax far exceeds the cost-shift from the uninsured, the most popular justification for mandatory insurance. Worst of all, mandatory insurance is the opposite of true health care reform. Instead, it entrenches the harmful policies responsible for escalating prices of medical care and insurance.

This article originally appeared in the HuffPo Denver, October 18, 2010.