Issue: The state legislative session started this week, and one of the things on legislators’ minds is health care. It’s one of those “kitchen table” issues that the majority Democrats keep saying will be their focus. Add your voice to those telling Olympia that health care is a basic need that everyone should be able to meet.
Background: Over half a million people in Washington don’t have health insurance, and the ranks of the uninsured are rising, particularly among children. Many working adults cannot afford to pay the rising cost of insuring themselves, much less their kids. According to a recent Kaiser survey, between 2002 and 2003 the cost of private health premiums rose 13.9 percent and the cost that individual employees kicked into their own insurance went up by 53 percent.
Children without health coverage are less healthy than insured kids because their parents are more likely to postpone needed health care and allow prescriptions to go unfilled because they cannot afford the cost. In Washington, the legislature and governor have taken significant steps over the past two years to help families get the health coverage they need, including setting the admirable goal of ensuring coverage for every child in Washington by 2010. The investments we’ve made are paying off: Over the past two years, the number of uninsured children in our state dropped 23 percent. This year, it’s time to finish the job by passing comprehensive legislation that creates accessible coverage options for all children, so that they can get the health care they need to grow and thrive.
As a result of a lack of coverage, by the end of 2004 the Washington health care system paid $400 million to health care providers for people who don’t have health insurance. The costs of uncompensated care are eventually passed on to everyone else through higher health care costs and taxes. Yet over 80 percent of those who don’t have health care are working. While their employers are often making big profits in Washington, employers often don’t provide health insurance for their workers. Instead they rely on state programs like Medicaid and the Basic Health Plan to cover their workers.
It is time for Washington’s big employers to pay their fair share of health care for their employees. The Health Care Responsibility Act would require large employers to provide health care for their employees or pay a fee to the state. If collected, the fees would go toward paying for health care for those employees on the state’s Basic Health Plan (BHP).
Action: Contact your legislators and the governor and tell them that everyone in Washington should have access to quality, affordable health coverage. Specifically, ask them to ensure that every child is covered by 2010 and to require that large employers contribute their fair share to the costs of health care for their workforce. You can call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.
For regular updates on health care policy and alerts about when you can make your voice heard, sign up for action alerts at www.savehealthcareinwa.org.
Information for this column provided by Statewide Poverty Action Network (www.povertyaction.org) and the Children’s Alliance (www.childrensalliance.org).
For copy of actual issue, go to https://www.realchangenews.org/2007/01/10/jan-10-2007-entire-issue