You do know there's a slow and steady push to implement a single-payer healthcare system in Washington state by 2020, yes? If not, then please let me catch you up in several sentences on this lovely spring afternoon.
None of the single-payer bills made it out of committee in the last legislative session in Olympia. (Sen. David Frockt's bill came close, but no cigar thanks in part to Sen. Mark Mullet, the only Democrat on the Senate healthcare committee who didn't vote YES.) This is bad news.
However, lawmakers did allocate $100,000 to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to "conduct a study of single payer and universal coverage health care systems." This is good news.
Language in the 2018 Supplemental Operating Budget says the study must define different healthcare systems (i.e. what we're talking about when we're talking about "universal coverage" or "single-payer"), compare those systems to other models, and then determine "the cost, quality of care, health outcomes, or the uninsured rate" of each of those models, all by December 1, 2018.
That's a lot to accomplish with only $100,000, but Bevin McLeod, program director for Health Care for All-WA, tells me University of Washington Professor Emeritus at the School of Public Health, Douglas Conrad, ballparks "a full econometric study of the single-payer system" at $100,000 to $200,000, which is in range of this funding. And if researchers need more money, language in the bill indicates that they can get more from the Office of the State Actuary.
The research should be complete just in time for Sen. Frockt to include it in a revised single-payer bill he hopes to submit at the beginning of 2019. This time, instead of having to estimate cost and coverage, advocates will be able to give people real numbers.
McLeod says they're not just looking to turn Democratic hold-outs like Sen. Mullet. "We're looking at very specific legislative districts where we found potential support among Republican lawmakers, and we're going to be working really hard between now and December to bring a lot of focus and education to those districts," she said. "We want this to be bipartisan. The next time we have a Republican legislature, we don’t want them repealing this bill.”
One of the major barriers to instituting single-payer on a state level is figuring out how to obtain waivers for the Affordable Care Act and yet still receive federal funds to help pay for the program, but McLeod says Health Care for All-WA is working with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's office on a bill that would do just that.
Of course, such a bill might be difficult to pass under the current administration. But the field might look a little different come 2020.
In the meantime, if you want to start knocking on doors and telling people about this, go talk to the fine people at Health Care for All-WA. McLeod says they need "an office space, big donors, small donors, the whole kit and caboodle" to keep this thing moving forward.