Democrats are already looking beyond ObamaCare’s slow-motion failure, and Colorado is showing where many want to go next: Premiums across the state are set to rise 20.4% on average next year, and some have concluded that the solution is more central planning and taxation. Voters will decide on Nov. 8 whether to try the single-payer scheme that blew up in Vermont.

Amendment 69 would alter the state’s constitution to create a single-payer health system known as ColoradoCare. The idea is to replace premiums with tax dollars, and coverage for residents will allegedly include prescription drugs, hospitalization and more. Paying for this entitlement requires a cool $25 billion tax increase, which is about equal to the state’s $27 billion budget. Colorado would introduce a 10% payroll tax and also hit investment income, and that’s for starters. California would look like the Cayman Islands by tax comparison.

Every other detail is left to the discretion of a 21-member panel. The board of trustees would determine what benefits are offered—say, whether your pricey cancer drug makes the cut. The board would also set reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals, as well as patient co-payments.

Trustees would be elected to four-year terms and not subject to recall elections. In other words, ColoradoCare would evade nearly all democratic accountability. Amendment 69 stipulates that the entity is “not an agency of the state and is not subject to administrative direction or control by any state executive, department, commission, board bureau or agency.” ColoradoCare could bust constitutional limits on tax increases and spending.

No one thinks this project will float on its planned $38 billion budget. An analysis from the Colorado Health Institute found that ColoradoCare would post a $253 million loss in its first year and would then “slide into ever-increasing deficits in future years unless taxes were increased.” The other options are reducing benefits or cutting payments to doctors—assuming providers haven’t fled the state. ColoradoCare will have evicted whatever remains of the private insurance market, so residents may have nowhere to turn.

The best independent study on single payer is Vermont, which abandoned the idea in 2014: Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, dumped his signature campaign issue once he figured out it’d require an 11.5% payroll tax and an individual levy as high as 9.5%. Mr. Shumlin admitted that “the risk of economic shock is too high at this time to offer a plan I can responsibly support.”

Remarkably, Colorado has managed to build on Vermont’s failures. For one, the plan aspires to cover more than five million people, not Vermont’s 625,000. Anyone who claims to live in Colorado qualifies, so get ready for a crush of beneficiaries who don’t pay anything. ColoradoCare would be enshrined in the constitution, which is much harder to scrap than legislation.

The good news is that Amendment 69 has created a rare moment of bipartisanship: Former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter is working with Colorado’s Republican Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, to defeat the measure. Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is also opposed. Voters hate the idea the more they learn: A September poll showed only 27% support, down from 43% in January.

Then again, Bernie Sanders supports it, and Hillary Clinton wants a “public option” that is another giant step toward single payer. Coloradans have the opportunity to reject what progressives would love to achieve if they didn’t have to bother with voters: socialized medicine.

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Post-ObamaCare Preview in Colorado
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