Health care legislative update: February 25, 2015

Credit: 401K 2012/Flickr Creative Commons

Credit: 401K 2012/Flickr Creative Commons

In the U.S., health care has been rationed by price for far too long. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) set us on a path toward better access but we still have a ways to go. We must identify persistent gaps in access to insurance coverage and health care and pursue policies that put us on the path to achieving truly universal health care.

Building on our 2015 Legislative Agenda, EOI has set out the following policy goals for 2015:

Goal 1: Identify gaps in quality, affordable, accessible health care and build solutions to eliminate those gaps. While policy solutions, such as the Basic Health Option, are currently available to Washington, it is important to have a clear assessment of where we stand in access to care since implementing the ACA. The legislature can direct data collection across the Health Benefit Exchange, the Health Care Authority and other agencies to ensure coordinated efforts to identify gaps. Further, the legislature can act to implement solutions to ensure continuity of care and address inequitable gaps in access to care.

Progress: House Bill 1669: (Establishing a task force on continuity of health coverage and care, sponsored by Rep. Ricelli) was heard by the House Health Care and Wellness committee, with bi-partisan support and supportive testimony from both the Washington State Medical Association and the Washington State Hospital Association. The bill has now been referred to the House Appropriations Committee. Companion legislation in the Senate (Senate Bill 5625) will not receive further consideration.

Goal 2: Establish intent for universal health care in Washington. Health care is a human right and should be equitably available to all residents. Washington’s legislature can take important leadership in setting a goal of universal access to care.

Progress: House Bill 1321 (Declaring the intent for all Washingtonians to have health care coverage by 2020, sponsored by Rep. Robinson) was heard by the House Health Care committee. We had strong testimony from community and migrant health centers, a retiree advocate and pharmacist, a Harborview nurse, and an immigrant who has been denied access to Medicaid due to the 5-year bar that prevents lawfully present immigrants from accessing federal health care programs. Companion legislation in the Senate (Senate Bill 5305) will not receive further consideration.

Current Action(s): Sign the petition supporting the Health Care is a Human Right campaign’s efforts to ensure everyone has access to affordable, quality health care.

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