One of my favorite things about serving in Olympia and representing the 25th Legislative District is when I get to bring great news to the people back home.
As a nurse, I know many of you are worried about losing your health coverage — or already have friends and family who don’t have any health insurance at all. I’ve spoken with hundreds of our neighbors who have admitted to me that they can’t afford health insurance because of the high cost.
Right here in Pierce County, there are 121,200 people younger than 65 who don’t have health insurance. They got laid off, or they work at a small business that can’t afford to offer health coverage.
I treat these folks on a daily basis. They postpone health care entirely, hoping their condition remedies itself. It’s not until their symptoms become unbearable that they end up in our emergency rooms.
Having folks go to the ER as a last resort is the most expensive possible thing. It’s costly for patients, who often can’t afford the bill at all, and costly for taxpayers and people who have health coverage.
Those of us fortunate enough to have health insurance pay an extra $1 billion a year in those costs from folks who don’t have health coverage.
We can do better.
Better for the families who don’t have health insurance. Better for people who have health coverage and wind up paying more. And better for the taxpayers.
My first two weeks back in the state capitol have been filled with countless hours of planning, work sessions and number-crunching in order to implement the Affordable Care Act at the state level.
I am happy to report that we have the opportunity to actually expand health insurance coverage to 385,000 Washingtonians – who would continue to go without otherwise – and save about $200 million during the next two years along the way.
This expansion of the Medicaid program means 35,800 Pierce County residents will be newly eligible for health care coverage. These are our neighbors struggling to get by after a layoff, a friend recently diagnosed with a devastating illness, or a young person struggling to free themselves from addiction.
Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do – not just for our health care system, but for our economy and our taxpayers as well.
The Medicaid expansion would add more than $2 billion to our state’s economy, including 70,000 new jobs.
I like saving money, making sure more people have health care and creating jobs. That’s a win for all of us.
For lawmakers, there’s no good reason to turn it down, especially when our state Supreme Court has ruled that we must come up with an extra $1 billion to fund our public schools.
As a grandmother of six children, I want the $200 million in savings to go toward ensuring students like my grandkids have the educational tools they need to learn, reduced class sizes, and extensive early childhood learning opportunities.
I know I’m not alone when I say that I don’t want it wasted simply to make a political point.
The issue is clear: If we don’t use the Medicaid expansion dollars, other states will.
As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interests of the people we represent with a respect to the times in which we serve — which is exactly why we must act now to bring these Medicaid expansion dollars back to taxpayers here in Washington.State Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup, is chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.