August 25, 1993
By Carl Raschke
As President Clinton marched to the podium to tout his health care reform plan before the nation’s governors in Tulsa, the CNN television cameras captured the sight of a familiar figure striding just behind him: Colorado’s Gov. Roy Romer.
Given Romer’s leadership role among the state’s governors, it was appropriate that he could ephemerally insert himself into the national media spotlight at the moment when the current Democratic administration in Washington was preparing to launch its most consequential, and fateful, legislation.
But Colorado’s governor, who has been known in the past to get noticed around the country when major issues occupy the press, was making more than a symbolic entrance. Clinton’s call for national health care legislation coincided with the announcement in Colorado of a statewide plan for comprehensive, mandated, government-sponsored coverage. The $11 billion plan would offer more benefits than most insurance companies currently provide and, according to its backers, set “new standards” for coverage.
The means of funding what has been described in the newspapers as “generous” package of medical entitlements for all Coloradoans regardless of income levels has not yet been decided.
Once again Governor Romer has piggybacked a sweeping, and potentially controversial, state political agenda on to a highly visible national initiative. His “Children First” proposal would have added a penny to the state sales tax for educational financing, and changed learning benchmarks for all Colorado students. The education tax was defeated in the 1992 fall election.
Children First was crafted to look like a model strategy for meeting the national educational goals which the governors had drawn up the year earlier, and on which President Bush staked more than a modicum of his electoral prestige.
The voters, however, rejected the Romer/Bush strategy because upon close inspection it proved to be a pig-in-the-poke. More public dollars would have surged into a government school bureaucracy that might actually have generated fewer genuine educational results.
Nobody has seen the fine print in the Governor’s proposed grandiose contract between leading health providers, the taxpayers, and the state bureaucracy. But statistics on Colorado’s health care costs, recently released by the New England Journal of Medicine, should ignite some concern.
According to the Journal, Colorado right now spends about 12 percent more than the national average for the medical industry’s administrative “overhead.” That’s approximately $3 billion per year, nearly one fourth of the projected $13 billion for total medical services.
The new Romer health plan, chock full of goodies and relatively modest about methods of cost-control, would inevitably inflate that figure even more.
The people of the state politely said no a year ago to the hard sell that came from the educational bureaucracy. This next year they may well, through their legislative representatives, convey the same firm message about the need to shrink, not expand, government managed bureaucracies.
Carl Raschke is a Senior Fellow in American Values with the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden.
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Copyright 2000 David B. Kopel