Fate of Senate bill 5222 (universal healthcare)

I heard from Whole Washington that Senate Bill 5222 (universal healthcare) was stalling in committee. I emailed Senator Anette Cleveland to ask why she’s holding it up and to encourage her to support it. Here’s her response:

From: Cleveland, Sen. Annette <Annette.Cleveland@leg.wa.gov>
Date: Mon, Feb 18, 2019 at 4:56 PM
Subject: RE: Senate Bill 5222: universal healthcare bill

Dear Mr. Smith (Donald),

As chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, I continue to focus on laying the foundation for universal health care and a single payer system for our state. Last session, we were fortunate to host Dr. Nata Menabde, executive director of the United Nations World Health Organization, via remote testimony from Geneva, Switzerland, to the Senate Health Care Committee for an update on the international goal of achieving universal health care worldwide by the year 2030.  We know this is the right thing to do and we know our state must continue to do our part to strive toward this goal; the challenge is to make sure we do it in a manner that will ensure success.

Over the last eight years, implementation of the Affordable Care Act and our state expansion of Medicaid have led to near-universal health care coverage (approximately 95 percent of Washingtonians). We want to maintain these gains while identifying and providing health care coverage options for the remaining 5 percent of our population. Developing a public option is one of the ways we can address this need, and is a key first step.

To that end, the Health Care Committee heard two important bills on Monday:

  • Sen. Frockt’s SB 5526 would direct the state Health Benefit Exchange to require insurance providers to develop standardized health plans, and would direct the state Health Care Authority (HCA) to contract with health carriers to offer such plans for individuals who are not covered by plans through their employers. The bill would also direct the HCA to develop a plan to subsidize premiums for individuals who purchase coverage through the state exchange.
  • Sen. Randall’s SB 5822, meanwhile, would direct the state Health Care Authority to create a work group to identify and recommend ways the state can establish a universal health care and single payer system.

We also want to be mindful of the lessons learned by other states. The state of Vermont passed single payer legislation but has been unable to implement due to its immense cost. To avoid a similar misstep and potential failure in our own state, we need to fully research and identify what it would cost — and how we could pay for it — before we pass a policy.

In addition, implementation of a single payer system in our state will be impossible without federal approval and action. With the Trump administration very unlikely to allow federal support, it is important we work closely with our federal delegation in support of the needed changes. As you know, Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell have been key, and, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is also playing a lead role in this effort.

Last Session, I held hearings on multiple bills from multiple groups concerning a single payer health care system.  I found that disagreement remains within these groups on the proper way to move forward on the issue.  We must continue to work together to address these differences of opinion in order to reach consensus on how best to move forward.  We also must continue to more broadly reach citizens across the state with information.  I applaud the recent effort to gather support for a single payer health care ballot measure this past year- and while that effort fell short- I encourage the continuation of this vital outreach and education. It is the only way we will be successful in reaching a shared goal.

Finally, I ask for your partnership going forward in our strategic work toward a single payer health system. Anything less, and we will be severely hampered in making any progress. I urge you to join us and help to be a part of the solution.

Annette Cleveland Washington State Senator
Chair, Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee
49th Legislative District
Vancouver(360) 786-7696

In response, Whole Washington sent out this call for a rally in Olympia:

Senator Annette Cleveland has refused to let Senate Bill 5222, the bill that would create a universal healthcare system for Washington, out of committee. With 522,000 Washington residents lacking healthcare coverage, this is unacceptable.

Join us to let her know, we want REAL universal healthcare, not more studies or promises or half measures. We’re demanding a public hearing for SB 5222.

  • When: Tuesday, Feb 19th at 11 am.
  • Where: The Capitol Steps, 416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504

Wear your red berets, bring signs and any medical related bills you have. We will be delivering the bills to our legislators after the rally!


Can’t make it?

Here are some ideas to participate from across the state:

  1. Get a letter in the mail. Decorate it, write a poem or haiku, make it personal, make it stand out. Go ahead and get crazy creative. Here’s the address: Sen. Annette Cleveland, PO Box 40449 Olympia, WA 98504-0449
  2. Call and email Senator Cleveland’s office all day 2/19. Contact info here: annette.cleveland@leg.wa.gov, (360) 786-7696
  3. Make your own sign and take a picture of yourself with it. Post it on your favorite site(s) with the hashtag #sb5222 and/or send it to jen@wholewashington.org. We’ll post them too. Include @Sen_ACleveland

This is our last shot for this legislative session, people. Let’s fight for ourselves and for each other. Loudly!

I’ll update this article as I learn more.

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