King County executive announces health care priorities as Congress debates rollback

  • Tuesday, January 24, 2017 12:51pm
  • News
King County executive announces health care priorities as Congress debates rollback

The people of King County benefited dramatically from the expansion of health insurance and other reforms under the Affordable Care Act – and a repeal without a comparable replacement threatens widespread damage to the region’s health and economic well-being.

“More than 200,000 people access health care in King County through the Affordable Care Act. We’ve cut the uninsured rate by half. And all of those folks who are able to go to the doctor, and get preventative care, and get their kids to a physician when they’re sick – all of those people are in danger of losing their health care,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a media release after a Monday press conference. “I will fight to protect families and ensure access to care. I will make sure Congress and the new president understand what’s at stake for our residents. And our public health and human services and community partners will do everything in their power to prevent people from suddenly being left without care.”

In the past four years, thanks in part to nationally-recognized outreach efforts:

• The number of uninsured working-age adults has dropped by 54 percent since 2013, to just 7.7 percent, the lowest level ever recorded.

• The uninsured rate for children in King County has also reached an historic low of 1.6 percent.

• The uninsured rate for African Americans dropped by nearly two-thirds, from 27 percent to 10 percent.

More than 200,000 people in King County stand to lose coverage if key provisions of the Affordable Care Act – including the Medicaid expansion and subsidies to individuals who enroll through the health insurance exchange (Washington Healthplanfinder) – are repealed.

Many more in King County would be at risk if Congress does not maintain the ban on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions and the ability to keep adult children on family health plans until age 26. Removing these and the core requirement that everyone participate in insurance could result in a “death spiral” in the insurance market, impacting not only those who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act but also the broader population.

Medical providers that serve as a “safety net” for people who lose jobs, work part-time, or for other reasons lose their employer insurance have formed a nearly seamless network under the structures of the Affordable Care Act. A repeal threatens the economic sustainability of that network.

Constantine announced his health care priorities, which included:

• Striving for universal coverage, because access to health care is a human right.

• Keeping the insurance market steady by maintaining rules that everyone participate. This is critical to keeping the most popular elements of the ACA: No restrictions on pre-existing conditions, no life-time limits on coverage, maintaining coverage for adult children 26-years-old or younger on their parents’ insurance.

• Continuing to improve health outcomes and control costs.

These items will be at the top of King County’s federal legislative agenda that Constantine and the Council take to Washington, D.C., in April.

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