A Democratic candidate for governor is proposing a Medicaid-for-all health care system in Colorado, endorsing a public option to help address limited insurance options in rural counties.
Cary Kennedy announced Tuesday that she supports allowing anyone to buy into the state’s government-run Medicaid system — a policy stance that puts a line in the sand in the crowded 2018 Democratic primary on the issue of health care.
But the former state treasurer’s plan represents a significant extension of Medicaid and will open her to criticism from Republicans who want to curtail the program expanded under the Affordable Care Act and mired in ever-increasing costs to state and federal taxpayers.
Kennedy argued it is necessary to lower rates for residents on the Western Slope and Eastern plains who pay more for health insurance. Only one insurer is available on the state’s health insurance exchanges in 14 Colorado counties.
Under the federal health care law known as Obamacare, Colorado’s uninsured rate dropped to 6.7 percent in 2015.
Other states are considering similar proposals for a public option after the gridlock in Washington on the health care issue. In Nevada, state lawmakers approved a Medicaid-for-all bill earlier this year, but Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed the measure. Medicaid coverage is provided by state and federal dollars to cover lower-income residents, children and the disabled.
Kennedy’s proposal comes as Democrats in Washington debate a Medicare-for-all plan put forward by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, another top contender for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, has long supported the public option at the federal level.