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What Colorado’s Public Health Insurance Push Means for Democrats

A state-sponsored plan could embolden candidates eyeing the White House.
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Photographer: Volodymyr Maksymchuk/Alamy Stock Photo

For Democratic presidential candidates contemplating sweeping health-care overhauls, what happens in Colorado over the next few months will be instructive. Lawmakers in Denver are preparing to vote on a state-sponsored health plan that would compete with private insurance and offer lower premiums. Its approval could embolden Democrats eyeing the White House.

Moderate Democratic candidates such as Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, and Amy Klobuchar want to let people buy government coverage—like that offered to Americans 65 and older via Medicare—while their rivals to the left, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, would replace private insurance entirely with benefits funded by taxpayers. (Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, Bloomberg Businessweek’s parent, is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.) Colorado’s proposal is more modest than what much of the Democratic field favors, since it relies on private insurers to manage the plans. But if the state is stymied by stiff opposition from hospitals and insurers, it could force voters to recalibrate their expectations for what a Democratic president could achieve.