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Affordable Health-Care Bills Facing Final Negotiations in Olympia

Supporters of the so-called Cascade Care proposal are concerned Washington state lawmakers could strip it of its cost-saving potential. (Piutus/Flickr)
Supporters of the so-called Cascade Care proposal are concerned Washington state lawmakers could strip it of its cost-saving potential. (Piutus/Flickr)
April 9, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state's bid to expand health care coverage to all is in its final stages of negotiations at the Capitol. Cascade Care is Gov. Jay Inslee's proposed plan to provide affordable insurance to all Washingtonians.

Bills have passed in both the House and Senate, but Ashley Sutton, health policy associate with the Economic Opportunity Institute, said she’s concerned a version currently moving through the Legislature has been stripped of the provisions that gave Cascade Care its teeth, including a cap on provider reimbursement rates at Medicare levels. She said studies have shown this measure would drive down premiums for everyone.

"When we cap the reimbursement rate at Medicare levels, we see what's called the spillover effect, where it actually creates cost reductions across the entire health insurance market,” Sutton said. “So, essentially, people on employer-sponsored insurance, private insurance, would also see the benefits."

Health industry groups have opposed the cap because they believe the rate is set too low.

Sutton said the bill as amended also weakens an original provision that created state-designed standard plans through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange by allowing non-standard plans to be offered after 2025. She said the standard plan provision was a key component for bringing down deductibles.

Suttons said Washington state's top ten health insurance executives earned nearly $80 million combined in 2018.

"This industry can afford to rein in cost without harming Washington families,” she said. “And so the Medicare reimbursement provision as well as the standard plan design are both components we need to have."

The legislative session is scheduled to end on April 28.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA