Washington legislator introduces bill to expand Washington Basic Health – without a tax increase

Senator Karen Keiser

As legislators attempt to hammer out a final state budget agreement, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent) has introduced a bill to expand Washington’s Basic Health Plan (BHP) for the first time in more than a decade – without raising taxes or diverting funds from other public priorities.

According to an analysis by the Economic Opportunity Institute, Keiser’s measure would reduce the number of uninsured by enabling coverage for more than 130,000 working Washingtonians, including 95,000 on the BHP’s wait list.

The bill would also provide a needed boost to Washington’s economy – EOI’s study notes that every $1 million invested in Basic Health protects 14 jobs in industries across the state.

The number of people without health insurance in Washington has climbed over the last decade, even during economic upswings. At the same time, BHP enrollment in has fallen dramatically, due to several years of compounding state budget cuts. Today, the BHP covers only 35,000 residents; more than 157,000 are on the wait list due to shortfalls in state funding.

Senate Bill 6632 expands Basic Health coverage by authorizing the state to issue revenue bonds for a portion of future Tobacco Settlement revenues. The funding would be sufficient to expand Basic Health through the end of 2013, when the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) will ensure health care for Basic Health enrollees. The measure requires only a simple majority to pass the legislature.

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