The Universal Health Care Commission held its first meeting yesterday in a first step towards creating a report to the governor and legislature, by November 2022, on ways to create a system that provides coverage and access to all Washingtonians.
The meeting itself was mostly procedural, as members introduced themselves and talked through the draft charter. Approval of the charter is expected at its next meeting on Jan. 4. Still, the meeting marks progress for the committee, which got off to a late start.
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The commission was created by the legislature during the 2021 session, following the recommendations provided by the Universal Health Care Work Group. The bill went into effect on July 25, and was supposed to hold its first meeting within 90 days, a benchmark that passed in late October.
State of Reform’s sister site, the Washington State Wire, wrote on Oct. 28 that Gov. Jay Inslee had yet to appoint members to the committee. The following day, Inslee’s office issued their recommendations.
Despite the late start, the commission is now fully-appointed with a roster that includes:
- Vicki Lowe, chair
- Sen. Ann Rivers
- Bidisha Mandal
- Dave Iseminger
- Sen. Emily Randall
- Estell Williams
- Jane Beyer
- Joan Altman
- Rep. Joe Schmick
- Karen Johnson
- Kristin Peterson
- Rep. Marcus Riccelli
- Mohamed Shidane
- Nicole Gomez
- Stelle Vasquez
The commission will need to figure out recommendations for creating a universal health care system for the initial report due Nov. 1, 2022, after which it is tasked with generating annual reports.
During the public comment, Kelly Powers, with Health Care is a Human Right – Washington, urged the commission to emphasize affordability and not just less expensive health insurance coverage as even people who have health insurance often don’t seek medical attention if treatment will be expensive.
“We’re not really talking about just lowering costs, it’s got to be affordable,” Powers said.
Washington State must obtain federal waivers for a universal health care system, and the bill that established the commission also directed the state’s Health Care Authority to begin submitting applications for those waivers. A piece of federal legislation, called the State-Based Universal Care Act which is supported by Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith, was introduced in June and seeks to streamline the process for states.
It would also allow multiple states to apply together, laying the groundwork for a regional universal health care system. In previous coverage by the Wire, Bevin McLeod, co-founder of the Alliance for a Healthy Washington, said they are gauging interest among lawmakers from Washington, Oregon and California on the potential of a universal health care plan.
McLeod also said as federal interest in implementing a universal health care system have faltered, a state-by-state approach may prove more successful.