Washington State Health Care Campaign Highlights Continuing State Action on Reform

This week, the Washington State Senate's health committee approved a bill to achieve health-care-for-all by 2012.  Sponsored by committee Chair Sen. Karen KeiserSB 5945 as amended combines immediate steps to expand access to coverage and cut administrative costs with a planning process to refine proposals for comprehensive reform by 2012.  This action came as the Seattle City Council and Seattle Post-Intelligencer endorsed national single-payer health care, emphasizing the continuing efforts in states to move forward health care reform.

SB5945 would create the Washington Health Partnership, a working group, to implement health reform changes and work with the state's DC delegation to take advantage of opportunities arising out of any federal health care reform efforts.  With news that President Obama wants to create a $634B ten-year health care "reserve fund" to help pay for a health care overhaul, this provision may be especially prescient.

Specifically, SB 5945 as amended would:

  • expand Medicaid to 200% of poverty for adults
  • consolidate health care purchasing and administrative services for public programs
  • direct the WA Health Partnership to examine comprehensive proposals studied by Mathematica and select one, or a combination, for legislative consideration that best achieves health-care-for-all while cutting costs
  • and, as noted, direct the Partnership to pursue reform consistent with any actions made by congress and, further, to work with Washington's congressional delegation to seek federal flexibility to implement state reform.

The bill is the latest in a multi-year effort to reform health care.  It directs the Partnership to seek reform consistent with the goals endorsed by a 2006 blue ribbon commission on health care reform.  And, as we wrote earlier this month, findings from a 2009 Mathematica study of five leading reform options breathed new life into a 2008 proposal by Sen. Karen Keiser that would guarantee quality health care for all, while generating $1.6 billion in new economic activity and billions in savings across the system - $330 million in reduced state spending, a cut of $2.35 billion in employer costs, and a $1.03 billion cut in out-of-pocket spending by families.  Sen. Keiser's 2008 plan was modeled after an on-going Wisconsin initiative, Healthy Wisconsin, championed by State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, and is similar to the New York Health Plan, a recent proposal from New York by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried.  

As part of his emerging budget proposal, President Obama has identified the following principles to guide health reform: aim for universality, maintain choice of insurance and doctors; ensure affordable coverage and portability; protect Americans' financial health; invest in prevention and wellness; improve patient safety and quality of care; ensure fiscal responsibility; and, achieve sustainability.  With President Obama shifting focus to health care, Washington State is positioning itself to take early advantage of any federal relief that comes in the form of health care reform.


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