Monte Whaley, State of Reform

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Thursday urged a group of health care consumers and nonprofit members to lobby heavily for a proposed health care public option, saying well-heeled organizations have lined up to scuttle the government-sponsored plan.

“Your advocacy will help us bring this health plan to Colorado,” Polis told the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “The other side has powerful special interests and lobbyists. We face some stiff opposition. But you can help fight them and give Colorado more choice in their health care.”

Large hospitals and insurance groups are mostly against the Polis-backed public option health insurance program, the governor said. A bill to introduce a public option to Colorado is scheduled to be unveiled within the next two weeks, Adam Fox, director of strategic initiative for the CCHI, said.

The primary sponsor will be Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, Fox said.

The public option would be offered in the individual insurance market and compete with existing insurance plans.

The proposed plan would be run by private insurance companies that would offer a plan with government oversight. Polis said the public option would lower health care costs by saving Coloradans between nine and 18 percent on their premiums and increase competition among hospitals.

If the public option is approved by the legislature, Colorado would join Washington as the only two states with government-sponsored health plans.

Two affiliated organizations aligned with hospitals and insurance companies, which would be required to participate in the public option, have spent more than $100,000 in an advertising effort to sway opinion against the public option.

The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future has spent more than $100,000 on television ads in the Denver and Colorado Springs/Pueblo markets since Dec. 11, according to the Colorado Sun newspaper.

At the same time, Colorado’s Health Care Future, spent nearly $21,000 on different Facebook ads, warning Coloradans they could be forced to cover the cost of the public option and that it would hurt the state’s economy, the Sun said.

One ad says, “Health care decisions should be made by Coloradans and their doctors- not politicians.”

The Colorado Hospital Association has said the public option proposal would only add “uncertainty” to the state’s health care market.

Polis said the plan’s foes either want to completely destroy the proposal or slow its progress through the legislature.

Neither is likely to happen, he told CCHI.

“We need to speed things up rather than slow them down” Polis said. “We should have had a public option 12 years ago.”

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