OLYMPIA - The Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee approved House Bill 2319 today, the next step in fully implementing the Affordable Care Act in Washington State.
The bill moves the state forward to meet critical development milestones in 2013 as outlined by the federal health reform bill passed in March 2010.
“Last year’s exchange bill was a good start in implementing federal health reform. It allowed the appointment of a health information exchange board that is well qualified and ready to begin its important work,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, chair of the committee. “Our efforts this year build off this foundation, so that come 2014 we’ll be ready to open the program for public use.”
The bill creates the Evergreen Health Marketplace, a consumer-friendly, online healthcare marketplace with a wide range of individual and small-group health insurance policies and allows individuals who lack coverage to buy into them. Transparency will be achieved through easy to compare standards, easing the confusion often experienced when policy shopping. Federal subsidies will aid in providing affordable coverage to low-income residents.
Currently, nearly one million Washingtonians are without health care coverage. Once federal reform is fully implemented, the state will be able to extend health coverage to the vast majority of those individuals and small businesses.
“This legislation is a major step towards achieving affordable coverage for all Washingtonians,” said Keiser. “These changes will create a viable, sustainable and consumer friendly marketplace that promotes competition and reduces the complexity of purchasing health insurance.”
If the Legislature does not pass the bill, qualification for a next-step $100 million federal grant to develop the exchange would be compromised and could cause the state to default to a federally-operated exchange.
“A one-size fits all approach is a mistake when it comes to something as intricate as healthcare,” said Keiser. “While other states have run into political barriers, inhibiting their ability in implement health reform, in Washington we continue to move forward.
“Washingtonians understand that health reform provides more healthcare access, better quality of care and lower overall costs.”
HB 2319 will now move forward in the legislative process.
For interviews, Michael Althauser, 360-786-7326
For more information, David Hanig, 360-786-7369