Washington lawmakers consider universal healthcare initiative that could secure federal waivers for statewide system


Shane Ersland


A joint memorial that would petition the federal government to create a universal healthcare system or allow Washington to create its own is moving in the legislature.

Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle) introduced Senate Joint Memorial 8006 last year, which was approved in the Senate. SJM 8006 stalled in the House in 2023, but it is under consideration again this year. It was approved by the House Health Care and Wellness Committee on Friday, and is now in the Rules Committee. 

SJM 8006 asks the Biden Administration to establish universal healthcare federally, pass the State-Based Universal Health Care Act, and grant Washington federal waivers necessary for the state to integrate federal programs and funds into a statewide universal healthcare system. SJM 8006 would not establish universal healthcare in Washington, but it would represent a government commitment to the cause.

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Jody Disney, representing the League of Women Voters of Washington, testified in support of SJM 8006 during a House Health Care and Wellness Committee meeting on Feb. 14th. 

“The league has a position which encourages progress towards universal healthcare or a single-payer model,” Disney said. “This joint memorial moves us in that direction. Healthcare is not a partisan issue for citizens. Voters identifying as Democrats, Republicans, or neither agree that US healthcare needs to change.”

Whole Washington Executive Director Andre Stackhouse noted that the organization has collected hundreds of thousands of signatures in pursuit of getting statewide universal healthcare on the ballot. 

“I know as much as anyone that this bill changes no laws and covers no one, and is far from universal healthcare,” Stackhouse said. “But the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and this is one step in the creation of a truly universal public healthcare system open to everyone and completely free at the point of care, like what is proposed in Senate Bill 5335, the Washington Health Trust.”

Whole Washington has been working with the state’s Universal Health Care Commission, which is working to prepare the state for the creation of a healthcare system that provides coverage and access for all residents, and provides suggestions to lawmakers.

“(SJM 8006) deepens Washington state’s commitment to building a just healthcare system, and begins the state/federal collaboration necessary to end the healthcare crisis. The healthcare reform movement has not always been of one mind on what to support, but you’ll hear in today’s comments a consensus not just behind this bill, but the healthcare justice it stands for.”

— Stackhouse

Sharon Damoff testified in opposition to SJM 8006. She said eliminating competition would make the healthcare sector worse.

“Under a socialized system, quality suffers and access becomes more difficult because fewer people, especially very bright people, become doctors,” Damoff said. “Wait times to get an appointment become prohibitively long. It is hard to get an appointment, and even when you have an appointment, the quality of care is worse. Citizens should be able to choose their own care, not have the government press things on them. In Canada, people with non-terminal and non-life threatening conditions have been referred for assisted suicide.”

Damoff compared universal healthcare to slavery.

“As much as we all want people to have access to high-quality healthcare, you cannot say healthcare is a right unless you believe in slavery,” she said. “Because demanding healthcare as a right means compelling someone else’s labor. It means forcing someone else to do work for you, even if they do not want to. The best way to get quality healthcare at affordable prices is to allow competition.”

Ronnie Shure, president of Health Care for All Washington, said universal healthcare would promote equity, however. He said the creation of a federal, single-payer, universal healthcare system is the best way to address serious issues in America’s health system. 

“We need action (from) Congress and President Biden, but we also look for federal waivers for the work our state is already doing to control costs, improve access—particularly in rural areas—and overcome the inequity in our system. The legislature has created boards and commissions that have started this work, and I urge you to pass this bill.”

— Shure

David Loud testified in support of SJM 8006 on behalf of Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action and Health Care as a Human Right Washington.

“During the 10 years I worked for Congressman Jim McDermott—an advocate for a public universal health plan—he concluded that our country will get there, but that a few states will lead the way,” Loud said. “He introduced the State-Based Universal Health Care Act, which is alive and well today in Congress. 

Washington is one of several states, including Oregon and California, working to create universal state health plans. This memorial will send an impactful message to Congress and the (Biden Administration) that we need federal support to help lead our country to affordable and equitable healthcare for all.”

Biden has historically been opposed to universal healthcare. When he campaigned against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) in 2020 for the Democratic presidential nomination, his alternative to Sanders’ support for a universal healthcare system was a public option, but he has done little to get Congress to enact one since getting elected.

3 thoughts on “Washington lawmakers consider universal healthcare initiative that could secure federal waivers for statewide system”

  1. Hell no it will lead to longer times to get the chance to see a doctor and of all things being referred for assisted suicide. That appalling and against everything I have been taught with Christian beliefs. Also very bad health care from the Doctors.and nurses.

    • US needs universal heathcare. Not only are we behing every European nation in providing heathcare for people, but we are even behind Turkey! Right now the insurance companies squeeze all the money they can from us, but when we develop chronic illnesses, we are pushed aside as “it won’t be fixed in 3 visits”. It is disguisting that the US is the one developoed country that has ZERO safety net! If you are so unluky as to live over 50, you are kicked out and left from the vultures, even if you worked since being 18 yers old.

    • You mean this Christianity
      “Matthew 25:35-40 King James Version (KJV)
      Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”


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