Health-Care Affordability in Spotlight During 2022 WA Session
Thursday, January 20, 2022
With costs growing, health care is set to be a major theme in Olympia this year.
Sam Hatzenbeler, health policy associate for the Economic Opportunity Institute, said state lawmakers have made progress, but care is still becoming increasingly unaffordable.
Hatzenbeler pointed out some Washingtonians have to make tough decisions.
"They're forced to choose between getting needed medical care and buying food, putting food on the table, paying rent, paying their car bill," Hatzenbeler outlined. "People shouldn't be forced to choose between these necessary pieces of being a human."
Across the U.S., the average worker's premium contribution has increased almost 300% over the past two decades. And Americans spend more than $1,500 each year on prescription drugs.
To tackle drug prices, state lawmakers hope to establish the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. Lawmakers approved a similar board in 2020, but Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed it because of its price tag. The Senate version of the bill had a public hearing this week.
Another measure, Senate Bill 5688, would give the attorney general oversight to ensure market consolidations don't result in increased cost.
Hatzenbeler noted the attorney general also would ensure care is not restricted.
"For example, some Catholic mergers and acquisitions have resulted in reduced access to reproductive care, gender-affirming care, end-of-life care, things like that," Hatzenbeler explained. "We want to make sure that consolidations don't result in this diminishing of care."
The bill includes a health equity assessment as well. It had a public hearing this week.
Hatzenbeler added another important provision to her organization is in the budget, and would increase funding for health care to immigrants. She reported 105,000 immigrants in the state lack health care.
Hatzenbeler emphasized low-income people, people of color and front-line workers in particular have shouldered a disproportionate impact from the pandemic.
"We have an opportunity this session to correct some of those long-standing inequities," Hatzenbeler asserted. "And make sure that health care is not only more affordable and higher quality for those people who are disproportionately impacted, but for all of us."
get more stories like this via email
Research is emerging about the secondary trauma school staff members face after helping students during the pandemic. As summer moves forward…
Health and Wellness
A Florida judge plans to put a hold on the state's new, 15-week abortion ban, set to take effect today. He said it is unconstitutional and will issue …
The Environmental Protection Agency now has fewer tools to fight climate change, after the U.S. Supreme Court stripped the agency of its authority to …
Three projects in Idaho have been selected to receive grants from the AARP Community Challenge. Among them is the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in …
Montanans get a sense of what soil health is like on farms and ranches across the state with Northern Plains Resource Council's soil crawls. The …
A new tool aims to help older adults in Arkansas and beyond who receive Medicare track what happens at their doctor appointments. It also can help …
A campaign in Maine is gathering signatures to replace the state's investor-owned energy grid with a consumer-owned utility. Central Maine Power (…
Another important U.S. Supreme Court ruling this month has been overshadowed by the controversy about overturning abortion rights. Legal experts say …