Health care uncertainty is growing in Washington State, but the Legislature is poised to do something about that in 2018. The Affordable Care Act, surviving despite recent efforts by the current Republican administration and Congress to weaken or kill it, nonetheless leaves half a million people in Washington State without access to affordable health care. That’s unacceptable and represents a moral failure, especially when insurance companies are making record profits. The big five health insurance companies earned $4.5 billion in the first quarter of 2017, and profits soared to more than $6.0 billion in the second quarter.
In the face of this dilemma, bills have been introduced in Olympia that would move our state toward a single-payer model of health insurance, a system in which the state of Washington would be the primary health insurance company. Single-payer is demonstrably more efficient than for-profit insurance. We could reduce administrative overhead from 30 percent to 5 percent. More people will get preventive care and avoid unnecessary and expensive emergency room visits. All these savings would make obtaining essential health care services less expensive for everyone.
Use the link to find out more about the bill, leave a comment, and to contact your legislators to encourage them to vote YES on this important legislation. http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5701&Year=2017
Senate Bill 5701 (introduced by Sen. David Frockt) would create the Washington Apple Care Trust, a board of experts who would propose a comprehensive package of health care benefits to be made available to all Washington residents regardless of their employment status with an implementation date tentatively set for May 2020. Comprehensive coverage would include hospital services, rehabilitation, mental health and substance abuse treatment, hospice care, medications, vision and hearing as well as other essential health benefits defined in the ACA. Dental care is slated for inclusion within one year of implementation.
The board and committees established by this bill would also be tasked with finding an equitable method of paying for the benefits of the plan. It is important to remember that companies and individuals are already paying huge amounts of money for health insurance. Under single-payer, instead of paying premiums to insurance companies, businesses would pay an assessment to the state based on the number of their employees. Individuals would be expected to pay into the system as well, but because of the savings on overhead, it will be substantially less than the exorbitant premiums and co-pays we face in the current system. It may also be possible for the state to negotiate for federal assistance under the ACA, but that part of the solution is in flux, at least until we elect a Democratic congress willing to shore up the gaps in Medicare and Medicaid and allow waivers for states that choose to implement single-payer.
If you are concerned about failures to pass single-payer in New York and California, look no further than the next election for our state legislators. Republican-controlled state houses and “road-kill” style Democrats were largely to blame for those setbacks. Electing Democrats committed to supporting progressive solutions will increase our chances of seeing legislation like the Apple Care Trust become the law of the land.
For more information, visit Health Care For All-WA.