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Q & A on 2SSB 5399, the Universal Health Care Commission 

By Elaine Cox and Sarah Weinberg, MD

Q: Where did this UHC Commission (UHCC) idea come from?
A: The final report of the Universal Health Care Work Group was sent to the legislature on January 15, 2021.  It created a commission to spearhead the transition to universal health care in Washington with subject-specific work groups and stakeholder input.

Q: What would this Commission actually do? 
A: The bill charges the UHCC to develop a plan “to create a health care system in Washington that provides coverage and access through a universal financing system including, but not  limited to, a single-payer financing system, for all Washingtonians.” 

Q: If there already are fully developed bills, for example SB 5335, the Washington Health Trust (WHT), and the Washington Health Security Trust (WHST), why do we need the UHCC? 

A: Given that no state yet has successfully implemented a comprehensive single payer health program, legislators want to have a dedicated body with broad perspectives and expertise from state agencies, legislators, the executive branch, academics, and stakeholders to ensure the success of this transformative innovation. 

There are tasks that must be accomplished for a state universal coverage plan to work. For example, currently, ⅓ of all Washingtonians are covered through state government health insurance such as PEBB, SEBB, the Health Benefit Exchange and Medicaid. The consolidation of these programs will showcase WA’s readiness to implement a state based universal system.

Q: What about the people who are suffering and at risk now because they can’t afford coverage or even with coverage they cannot afford the care they need?
A: HCFA-WA believes the UHCC  must address immediate needs and has worked to expand access, and make health care and coverage affordable.  Please go to our legislation page to learn more about specific bills and requests we support. 

Q: What is the timeline for the Commission?
A: There is no timeline. And this is why we need you! 

Q: What can you do? 
A: We need you to keep reminding the UHCC that 

  • a single payer model such as the WHST or the WHT would save billions every year while providing healthcare to all Washingtonians. 
  • a funding mechanism is key to a unified, simple and affordable system.  
  • a just transition to retrain displaced workers is crucial. 

Finally we need you to share your health care story!! 

Legislators and the UHCC need to hear directly from you about why universal health care is a necessity. Let us know if you’d like our help.

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