Groups dedicated to defeating what could be the nation's first socialized health insurance system have outraised the proposal's backers by a 6-to-1 margin and outspent them by nearly as much, new campaign finance filings show.
Opponents of Amendment 69, which would create a taxpayer-funded universal health care system called ColoradoCare, have brought in nearly $4.4 million in donations and services for the Nov. 8 election, according to reports filed this week to the Colorado secretary of state.
Of that total, roughly $444,000 remained in their coffers Aug. 31, the reports show.
Coloradans for Coloradans raised the majority of that money and spent much of it on television ads to run the final two months of the campaign. The first ad began airing Monday afternoon, said Sean Duffy, the group's spokesman.
The group raised about $266,000 from July 28 through Aug. 31. It spent nearly $345,000, the records show.
"People are realizing just how risky - and frankly wrong for Colorado - Amendment 69 is, and they want to support us," Duffy said.
If passed, the amendment would largely be paid for using a 10 percent payroll tax - 3.33 percent of which would be paid by employees, the rest by employers. Those taxes would bring in $25 billion a year.
The system also must rely on federal funding not yet approved that supports Medicaid and subsidies for people purchasing insurance off the state's exchange, Connect for Health Colorado.
Proponents say ColoradoCare would expand health insurance coverage to 350,000 people, cut administrative costs and streamline care.
The only people not covered by the program would be Medicare, Tricare or Veterans Affairs beneficiaries, though they would have to pay taxes to support it.
Questions, however, remain on whether ColoradoCare would be financially sustainable. An independent analysis by the nonpartisan nonprofit Colorado Health Institute found the system would likely run a $7.8 billion deficit within its first decade of operation.
Proponents say the analysis is wrong, and they project a $2.6 billion surplus in 2019, its first year in operation. It will continuing operating in the black for nine years, proponents add.
The lone group backing the proposal, ColoradoCareYES, has raked in more than $750,000 since the beginning of 2015. Heading into the last two months of the campaign, the group has about $34,000 on hand. It raised nearly $73,000 in late July and August from scores of people who mostly donated $100 or less.
Owen Perkins, spokesman for ColoradoCareYES, framed the differences in fundraising tallies to the people behind each campaign. Whereas proponents have relied largely on small donations from individuals, opponents have benefited from health insurance companies and other health care corporations who oppose ColoradoCare, Perkins said.
"That's who loses if ColoradoCare passes, and that's whose investing heavily in the opposition campaign," Perkins said.
ColoradoCareYES has not run any TV ads and does not have space reserved, Perkins said. Rather, much of its costs have been spent on printing materials.
"We've seen over and over again that if we can educate people about the measure, if they can learn about the measure, they're very likely to support it," Perkins said.
An opposition group, Colorado Health Care Choices, received about $475,000 in advertising services opposing the proposal. All of it was given by a group called the Colorado Health Care Institute - an entity for which few details exist.
That donor's name is similar to Colorado Health Institute, the independent nonprofit that conducted the financial analysis of Amendment 69. But Joe Hanel, a spokesman for the nonprofit, denied the two were connected.
"It's certainly not us," Hanel said.
The donor's listed address was the same as the group that received those funds. Inquiries by The Gazette to Colorado Health Care Choices were not returned.
A different group angling to defeat ColoradoCare has roughly $161,000 on hand. Called Hospitality Issues PAC, it opposes ColoradoCare and a proposal to raise Colorado's minimum wage, and it supports a proposed constitutional amendment aiming to make it more difficult to place amendments on future ballots.
The group reported giving $30,000 to Coloradans for Coloradans to oppose the health care system over roughly the past month.