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Kent's Keiser introduces state bill to fully fund Basic Health Plan

State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent. - COURTESY PHOTO
State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, has introduced a bill in Olympia to fully fund Washington’s Basic Health Plan (BHP) for the first time in more than a decade – without raising taxes raising taxes or diverting funds from other public priorities.

According to an analysis by the Seattle-based Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI), Keiser’s measure would reduce the number of uninsured by enabling coverage for more than 130,000 working Washingtonians, including 95,000 on the BHP’s wait list.

The bill, if passed, would also provide a needed boost to Washington’s economy – EOI’s study notes that every $1 million invested in basic health protects 14 jobs in industries across the state, according to an EOI media release.

"My goal is to offer an option for the budget negotiators to consider selling revenue bonds based on a portion of our tobacco settlement fund," Keiser said in a posting on her website. "Since one of the larger points of contention in the budget stand-off is Disability Lifeline funding, perhaps a new approach will be useful."

Senate Bill 6632, introduced March 21 by Keiser, expands Basic Health coverage by authorizing the state to issue revenue bonds for a portion of future Tobacco Settlement revenues. The funding would be sufficient to expand Basic Health through the end of 2013, when the federal Affordable Care Act will ensure health care for Basic Health enrollees. The measure requires only a simple majority to pass the legislature.

Keiser is chairwoman of the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee. The bill had a first reading March 23 and was referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

The number of people without health insurance in Washington has climbed over the last decade, even during economic upswings. At the same time, BHP enrollment has fallen dramatically due to several years of compounding state budget cuts. The BHP currently covers only 35,000 residents; more than 157,000 are on the wait list due to shortfalls in state funding.

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