Colorado Capitol Report

CACI Partnership Launches New Website to Give Students Vital Cost & ROI Data Regarding College Choices

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State Policy News

CACI Partnership Launches New Website to Give Students Vital Cost & ROI Data Regarding College Choices

The Honorable John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado. Photo by Evan Semón/ Evan Semón Photography

The Honorable John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado. Photo by Evan Semón/ Evan Semón Photography

By Dan O’Connell

Yesterday, more than 130 employers, educators, and higher education administrators gathered at the History Colorado Center for the debut event of the “” website.

Colorado is the first state in the nation to launch this new online tool focused on providing students, parents, working adults, and employers detailed cost and value information about different colleges and specific college programs, or majors.  Creators of the tool hope that this new website will serve a dual purpose:  first, connect young adults aspiring to new and fulfilling careers with the postsecondary programs that will equip them with the skills needed to succeed in the workforce; and second, aid employers to identify the programs and institutions that are producing graduates with the skills they need to run their businesses.

This new initiative is the result of a strong coalition comprised of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the American Institute for Research, Gallup, and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.  CACI was the leading state partner within the coalition, hosting several roundtable events and discussion groups over the last nine months to engage leading Colorado employers, educators, and government officials to aid in the development of the web-based tool.  USA Funds, an Indiana-based nonprofit provided substantial funding to support the initiative that is now poised to expand to several more states in the coming year.

CACI Board Chair Elect Keith Peason. Photo by Evan Semón/ Evan Semón Photography

CACI Board Chair Elect Keith Peason. Photo by Evan Semón/ Evan Semón Photography

Chair-Elect of the CACI Board of Directors and President of McClane Western, Keith Pearson, provided powerful insights regarding the importance of postsecondary education to Colorado’s workforce, business community, and state economy, before introducing the event’s keynote speaker, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Governor highlighted the importance of providing aspiring students important return on investment information as they make one of the most decisions they’ll ever make about where to go to college, what major program to pursue, or where to pursue other postsecondary credentials or certificates that will propel them into a career that will land them in the middle class

Following the Governor’s remarks, attendees heard from a panel of speakers on the importance of this new tool to higher education and workforce development in Colorado.  The panel included, Ray Johnson, CACI Board member and Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Manager at IBM, Jennifer Sobanet, Acting Executive Director and CEO of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Scott Laband, President of Colorado Succeeds, and Matthey Gianneschi, COO of Colorado Mountain College.

The website adds a new and powerful tool to the tool belt of those working to overcome the skills gap, or the wide gap between skills that new graduates learned in their postsecondary years and the skills that employers are demanding to fill critical roles within their companies.

Colorado has been highlighted nationally as a state facing a particularly large skills gap.  Leading workforce and higher education experts have even coined the term “Colorado Paradox,” to capture the seemingly contradictory statistics now existing in the state:  Colorado ranks among the top five states nationwide for the greatest number of degree holders per capita, yet only one in five Colorado ninth-grade students will earn a degree, thus ranking Colorado in the bottom quartile nationally.

The new tool utilizes data from Colorado’s labor and employment and higher education state agencies to provide prospective students real time information about “hot jobs” that are the most in-demand jobs in the state, as well as the postsecondary programs that will equip them with the skills needed to for those professions.

Return On Investment Data Critical Element of New Online Tool

Among the most innovative elements of the website is how it highlights a vital, but long overlooked, comparison that is highly instructive to prospective students.  In comparing the cost of degree programs at different postsecondary institutions to the projected future earnings that graduates of that program earn, students are able to make informed decisions about the value of pursuing specific majors and degree programs, and compare the costs of pursuing similar programs at different postsecondary institutions in Colorado.

As students struggle with the mounting burdens of school loans and student debt and as states like Colorado struggle to produce the volume of students needed to fill critical roles in the state’s workforce, “what students study becomes more important than where students study,” noted March Schneider, Executive Director of College Measures and Vice President at the American Institute for Research (AIR).

With this in mind, AIR and its coalition of state and national partners have focused on promoting the theme of “completion with a purpose,” for postsecondary students.  Their goal is to provide students with key data and information regarding “hot skills” are in demand in their state’s workforce, “hot jobs” are available at leading employers, and the return on investment of various degree programs and postsecondary institutions.

The new tool will, for the first time ever, provide students with a tool that aids their efforts to make fully informed, cost conscious decisions that will help them connect their career ambitions to their choices about postsecondary programs and institutions.

To view additional media coverage of the new tool and yesterday’s launch event, please see the links below:

Denver Business Journal: New Colorado website shows career value of college majors:

Fort Collins Coloradoan: Colorado website hopes to prevent student debt overload:

9News (syndicated from Denver Business Journal):

Chalkbeat Colorado:

Colorado Springs Gazette:

Noticiero Univision Colorado June 9, 11 PM News:

Noticiero Univision Colorado June 10, 5 AM News:


Inside Higher Ed:

Q&A: Amendment 69’s Impact on Employers & Workers Would Be Huge

This November, Coloradans will vote on an extraordinary ballot measure that would eliminate private health-insurance and replace it with a state governmental, universal health-care system called ColoradoCare that also would swallow up four major, existing state and federal health programs.

The single-payer system set forth in Amendment 69 would be enshrined in the Colorado Constitution.  Before the initiative qualified for the ballot last November, it was called Initiative 20, a 12-page amendment (Article XXX) to the Colorado Constitution.

The CACI Board of Directors voted to oppose Amendment 69 shortly after it qualified for the ballot.

If Amendment 69 is injected into the State Constitution, the political odds of it ever being changed by voters are slim to none, and the state will be left to deal with the enormous consequences—both intended and unintended—for years to come.

The ColoradoCare Yes campaign intends to make Colorado the first state in the country to adopt such a radical, wide-ranging health-insurance scheme.

Amendment 69 would undoubtedly be the most massive, expensive change in Colorado State Government in recent decades, and the effects on the Colorado economy would be huge.  It would eliminate the entire private-sector health-insurance industry while creating a massive ColoradoCare bureaucracy.  At this point, no one has a “guess-timate“ of how much it would cost to shut down the industry, laying off tens of thousands of workers, who would then collect unemployment benefits, thus draining down the Unemployment Trust Fund.

Employers would be forced to terminate contracts with health insurers as well as to adopt a new system for paying premium taxes to ColoradoCare.  The cost to employers of transitioning from the current system to the ColoradoCare system would be substantial, but no one has an idea yet of the cost.

Why is Amendment 69 being put forth?

Amendment 69 states that “Colorado needs a health care delivery system that prioritizes value over volume and that encourages quality, efficient, and accessible health care.”  Coloradans need affordable health-care “security.”  Businesses need “relief” from the “unstainable financial and administrative burdens of providing health insurance for their employees.”  Annual premium changes “disrupt coordinated lifetime health care.”

What does Amendment 69 propose?

In brief, Amendment 69 would create a “health care payment system” called ColoradoCare that would collect “premium taxes” from workers, employers and taxpayers who have non-payroll income and then pay health-care providers for services rendered to the “members” and beneficiaries of Colorado Care.  It would abolish all private-sector health-insurance plans sold in Colorado, causing hundreds to thousands of job losses.

Who would participate in ColoradoCare?

The amendment defines a “member” to be a “beneficiary who is at least eighteen years of age and whose primary residence has been in Colorado for at least one continuous year.”  A “beneficiary” also would be any individual who is less than 18 years of age, but such an individual would not be a “member.”

A “member” or “beneficiary” could presumably include, however, those who reside in Colorado illegally because the proposal does not use such explicit terms used by the Federal Government in its “Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification” as “citizen,” “noncitizen national,” “alien authorized to work” or “lawful permanent resident.”

How much will ColoradoCare cost?

The Legislative Council, the research arm of the Colorado General Assembly, initially estimated that ColoradoCare will cost Colorado taxpayers $25 billion in premium taxes in its first year of operation.  By contrast, the state’s 2016-2017 fiscal year budget is $27 billion!

Amendment 69 exempts ColoradoCare from TABOR.

In addition, there would be a huge, undetermined cost—perhaps in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars–to the State to transfer the following existing, major programs to ColoradoCare:

  • Workers’ compensation,
  • Medicaid,
  • Children’s Basic Health Program, and
  • Colorado health benefit exchange (Connect for Health Colorado).

It would be up to the legislature to find the money for this unprecedented, daunting task.  The only realistic option would be to reduce or eliminate discretionary spending in the budget for other programs.  Doing that would raise howls of protest from many interest groups.

What kind of an entity would ColoradoCare be?

It would be a political subdivision of the State, but it would not be an agency of the State.  It would be governed by an elected, 21-member board of trustees.  It would not be subject to oversight by the legislature, however, nor would it be subject to “administrative direction or control” by any State Government entity.

What does Amendment 69 mean for employers and workers?

Once fully implemented, ColoradoCare would impose a “premium tax” on employers (6.67 percent of total payroll income) and workers (3.33 percent of total payroll income).  Wages, salaries and tips would be subject to the tax.

In addition, as will be discussed, the state’s workers’ compensation insurance and benefit system would be transferred from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to ColoradoCare.

Could the premium tax be increased?

The Trustees of ColoradoCare could increase the premium tax to “maintain the fiscal stability of ColoradoCare” once each fiscal year upon approval of the “members of ColoradoCare.”  In other words, a statewide vote by the “members” would be required to increase the premium tax.

Would anyone else be taxed to pay for ColoradoCare?

Anyone who has non-payroll income would be taxed at 10 percent.  Such income includes, according to the Legislative Council:

  • business proprietors’ income, including farm proprietors’ income;
  • capital gains; and
  • pensions, annuities, and Social Security benefits, to the extent taxed by the state under current law.

Taxes would not be collected on total personal income greater than $350,000 for a single-income filer or $450,000 for joint-income filers.  These two limits would be indexed to calendar year 2017 but then adjusted annually according to the Denver-Boulder-Greeley Consumer Price Index (CPI) in later years.

How would ColoradoCare operate?

ColoradoCare would apply for a waiver from the Federal Affordable Care Act to establish a state health-care payment system.

ColoradoCare would contract with health-care providers to pay for specific health-care benefits (see below).

ColoradoCare would establish a “central purchasing authority” to negotiate and buy prescription drugs, medical supplies and other “products and services.”

ColoradoCare could ensure “financial stability by adjusting payments and benefits.”  In other words, providers and beneficiaries would be subject to unilateral actions by ColoradoCare.

ColoradoCare would fund the establishment of two ombudsman offices—one for providers and one for beneficiaries—in the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.  The two offices could, however, only make “recommendations” to the ColoradoCare Board.

ColoradoCare would establish a fraud investigation and prevention office, which could bring civil actions against providers and beneficiaries and refer criminal matters to district attorneys.

ColoradoCare would create an enormous database of medical records and billing systems that would be accessed by providers and beneficiaries.

ColoradoCare would pay for “designated supplemental health care services for Medicare beneficiaries” but it would not pay for services covered by Medicare Parts A, B and D or covered by a Medicare Advantage Plan that a beneficiary has with an entity other than ColoradoCare.

ColoradoCare would not pay for services “that would have been paid by Medicare Parts B or D had the beneficiary purchased those optional Medicare coverages” unless ColoradoCare “has an agreement with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services that requires it to pay for services that would have been paid under Parts B and D.”  ColoradoCare could offer a Medicare Advantage Plan, however, in which beneficiaries could enroll.

What health-care benefits would ColoradoCare pay providers?

The benefits are stipulated in Section 6 (below).  Note that the ColoradoCare Board also could create any other benefit that it wanted to, in addition to the ones stated in Amendment 69.  In short, ColoradoCare would be a socialized, cradle-to-grave health-insurance system covering any illness or injury, no matter the cause.










What would happen to existing State and Federal health-care programs?

ColoradoCare would swallow up all State and Federal health-care programs, including the four well-known, major programs:

  1. Colorado’s workers’ compensation system;
  2. Medicaid, the State-Federal program that provides medical insurance for low-income citizens;
  3. Children’s Basic Health Program; and
  4. Colorado health benefit exchange.

CACI supported bipartisan legislation that created the exchange, which is called Connect for Health Colorado.

What will it cost to transfer these four programs to ColoradoCare?

Amendment 69 stipulates that the legislature “shall appropriate sufficient funds to ensure a smooth and efficient transfer of the programs . . . “

Given the fiscal constraints and challenges of Colorado’s budget, the source of “sufficient funds”—unknown now but probably in the hundreds of millions of dollars–to pay for the State Government’s expensive transition of the four programs to ColoradoCare is a total mystery at this point.

The legislature’s staff, however, will take a stab at this when it prepares the fiscal analysis of Amendment 69 for the Blue Book, which will be mailed to all registered voters before the election.

How does ColoradoCare get off the ground?

ColoradoCare would have an initial, start-up “transitional” phase with a temporary taxing scheme that would begin July 1, 2016.  It’s called the “transitional operating fund tax.”  It would be governed by a 15-member interim board appointed by the Governor and the four majority and minority legislative leaders.

To fund this transitional phase, workers would be taxed at 0.6 percent of total payroll and employers would be taxed at 0.3 percent.  Fifty percent of non-payroll income would be taxed at 0.9 percent from July 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.

Among other duties, the interim board would oversee the statewide election of trustees from seven districts to govern ColoradoCare once it becomes operational.

What if the Federal Government does not issue the necessary OK needed by ColoradoCare?

If the board decides that ColoradoCare has not received the Federal “waivers, exemptions, and agreements” needed for “its fiscally sound operation,” the board will “shut down operations and returned unused funds.”

Federal Policy News

Toxic Substances Reform Passes Congress

On Wednesday night, the Senate successfully proceeded with passage of the bipartisan and near-unanimous agreement to reform toxic substances regulations, a.k.a. the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for 21st Century Act, H.R. 2576.  Due to the extensive and delicate nature of this reform, advocates from many sides came together to get the bill across the finish line, including health advocates, industry, scientists and environmentalists.

After compromise language was reached between the House and Senate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) placed a hold on the proposed unanimous consent (“UC”) agreement because he hadn’t read the 180-page bill and questioned the need for a Federal regulatory framework which pre-empts state regulations.  This was a concern voiced among some legislators, particularly Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) due to California’s notably progressive chemical safety standards, which would be pre-empted by the Federal law.  The House must confer still, but President Obama is supportive of the reform efforts and is expected to sign the bill into law.

For more background information, please click here to read last week’s CACI Capitol Report.

CACI Fed Council: Save-the-Date - July 19th

The Council will meet away from the CACI Office.  An update with more information will be forthcoming.  CACI members with questions about Federal policy issues should contact CACI Federal Policy Director Leah Curtsinger at 303.866.9641.