We got a work group, baby!
We got a work group, baby! Lester Black

In the final minutes before cutoff, a proposal that might put Washington on a "path to universal health care" was voted out of the Senate.

Republicans tried to force the bill off the legislative schedule by asking the Senators to consider other bills, proposing a bunch of idiotic amendments, rambling on about Venezuela, and telling long stories about Canadians they met on airplanes. Those efforts ultimately failed.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the bill would convene a work group to explore ways to make a "just transition" to single-payer, compare various financing mechanisms, examine possible transparency issues in order to determine why insurance and care cost so much, and consider the option of partnering with other states to create a regional single-payer system.

In her concluding remarks, Sen. Emily Randall, who sponsored the bill, told the story of her sister's struggle with microcephaly. The Legislature's decision to expand Medicaid, she said, helped her sister live a full life until she passed away at 19. Her sister's story pushed Randall to work in health care advocacy for years. "Washington has been a part of leading our health care expansion for so long, and I'm so excited to continue that work now," she said.

Over the phone, Randall called Republican efforts to slow roll the bill with dumb amendments “disappointing.”

“The amendments were in the spirit of weighing us down and stripping the credibility of our work,” Randall said. “Real people in Washington are struggling to get health care, and the idea that anyone would treat this with anything other than the utmost seriousness was frustrating.”

Randall is hopeful the bill will get a vote on the floor of the House despite the fact that House leadership let its companion bill die before the cutoff. Randall said she’s sitting down with House Speaker Frank Chopp tomorrow to make her case. “I’m going to impart to him the importance of this bill to the community that we both came from,” she said.

"This is the most comprehensive step our state has ever taken toward achieving the goal of universal health care," said Bevin McLeod, founder of the Alliance for a Healthy Washington.

"The fact that Senate leadership put this as the 5 o’clock cutoff bill—that was a demonstration of the Senate highlighting this as an important bill. That's never happened before," she added.

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McLeod said she "firmly believes" lawmakers will take seriously the study's recommendations, and that they will put forward universal health care legislation in the coming sessions.

Though the legislation is a watered down version of what could have been, lawmakers said they had to scale back their ambition of passing a state-based single-payer bill due to inaction in the U.S. Congress. In order for the system to be financially viable, the state would need to secure Obamacare and Medicaid waivers from the federal government, and that just isn't going to happen in the next two years. Creating a work group that can study the issue and file a report by November 15 of next year, however, can happen. So they're going with that.

Sen. Frockt's public option bill, which he's pushing at the behest of Gov. Inslee, passed the chamber, too. But that bill sucks.