The Colorado Attorney General’s office has ordered a pro Amendment 69 group to stop using the now defunct Colorado HealthOP’s name or likeness in literature aimed at persuading people to vote yes on the issue in the November election.
Amendment 69 would do away with the current Colorado Health Exchange and create a single-payer healthcare system that ColoradoCareYes calls “Medicare for all.” It would not be restricted by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) as it would be an enterprise fund.
Colorado would have the highest state income tax rate in the country at 14.63 percent if it passed.
The order came at the request of the Colorado Division of Insurance, who received complaints from former Colorado HealthOP clients that they were getting campaign emails to their personal email accounts.
The order was directed at 10 former ColoradoHealthOP Board of Directors members: Fay Diamond, Adam J. Riff, Melinda Harper, Chuck Holum, Rebecca Lynn, Sharon Montes, Marc Ringel, Dan Tuteur, Lindy Wallace and Jack Westfall.
Colorado HealthOP was one of many state-operated cooperatives started nationwide to spur competitive pricing in marketplaces under President Barak Obama’s Affordable Care Act. However, low rates forced many into insolvency, including Colorado, which left more than 80,000 people needing a new insurance provider for 2016 when the federal government shut them down. The email to former CO-OP members said in part: “We write, as former board members and staff of the late Colorado HealthOP, to state our strong support for the ColoradoCare … and ask that you also support this issue.” The email said the initiative was “universal health care” that would “eliminate premiums, eliminate deductibles, and eliminate co-pays for primary and preventative care.” Vincent Plymell, the communications manager for the Division of Insurance, said folks in his office were very concerned when they learned of the email. “It was such a concern to us, that we worked with our attorney in the Attorneys General office to issue a cease and desist letter to this group,” Plymell said. “The (order) told this group it had to stop these activities and stop representing themselves as this was something coming from the health op.”
Scott Rankin, president of Free Market Healthcare Advocates, said he and several others received the email on February 29. Because all them were former HealthOP clients, he believed the email could have been sent to roughly 80,000 people. He was right, Plymell said. The cease and desist order also included a request to destroy or return any email lists the group has that were HealthOP property. “I was somewhat surprised by the email,” Rankin said. “I questioned if this was a legitimate email.” Joseph Holloway, the receivership supervisor for Colorado HealthOP sent Rankin an email, confirming ColoradoCareYes’s improper use of the name. “Permission was not granted to use the Colorado HealthOP name to reach out in support of this project,” Holloway said. Rankin, who is a strong opponent to Amendment 69, wanted to get to the bottom of how the email originated and make sure people were aware the initiative was not endorsed by Colorado HealthOP. “It has never been proven anywhere that it works,” Rankin said. “The HealthOP didn’t work. It extracted a ton of money from taxpayers and it failed. So why do again?” If passed the plan would cost employers 6.67 percent of their total payroll in state income taxes, 3.33 percent on employees, and 10 percent for self-employed insureds, making Colorado the highest income tax in the United States. The cease and desist order said the group was in violation of court orders in the case. “Email addresses and all private identifying information of former CO-OP members, brokers, and any other clients, and/or affiliates obtained through the course of CO-OP’s operation, are the sole property of the CO-OP. The email indicates that you have converted the former CO-OP members’ email addresses to your own personal use,” it says. “Furthermore, your attempt to direct, control or influence former CO-OP members because of your role as former employees, board members or officers of the CO-OP also appears to be a violation.” All but one of the 10 members could not be located by Complete Colorado. Harper did not return a request for comment, neither did the communications director for ColoradoCareYes. Failure to stop will result in legal action the order says. “We wanted to nip this in the bud and let them know this was not the right thing to do” Plymell said. Send us tips at CompleteColorado.com.