Health Care

WPC's Center for Health Care develops patient-centered solutions to reduce costs and improve the availability and quality of health care for businesses and individuals, providing the only detailed, independent critique of health care issues available in the Northwest.

What's New

Bills to Lift the Ban on Buying Health Insurance in Other States Could Lower Costs for Washington Residents

February 21, 2010 in Publications

HB 3015 (sponsored by Rep. Eileen Cody) and SB 6781 (sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser) were offered with bipartisan support in the 2010 Legislative Session. The bills would establish “an interstate compact for the sale and issue of health benefit plans.” The goals of the proposed legislation are to:

  • Decrease the number of uninsured
  • Provide more affordable options in health insurance
  • Decrease or maintain insurance costs
  • Increase competition among insurance companies

State Abuse of the Medicaid Program

February 2, 2010 in Publications

The Medicaid program to provide health coverage for low-income people began in 1965 with the passage of Title XIX of the Social Security Act.  It has always been an entitlement, with no defined limit on the number of beneficiaries or the cost of the program.  As long as a person meets the legal criteria for participation in the program, that person receives Medicaid benefits, regardless of total cost to taxpayers.

State Abuse of the Medicaid Program

February 2, 2010 in Publications

This paper discusses state-federal Medicaid financing since the 1980s and how state officials have manipulated the federal program to receive extra matching money. Washington state’s proposed provider tax and the proposed “bed tax” on nursing homes are examples of how state officials adopt policies in an effort to leverage more federal funding from the Medicaid program. Since Medicaid is an entitlement with no statutory limit on spending, there is no limit to how much state officials can try to gain from the program.

The impact of national health care reform on Washington State

January 21, 2010 in In the News
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Health Care Bills Will Cost Us

January 19, 2010 in In the News
Wenatchee World
Wenatchee World
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Impact of National Health Care Reform on Washington State

January 1, 2010 in Publications

U.S. House and Senate Democrats have passed two sweeping 2,000 page bills that would fundamentally and dramatically change our health care. There are significant differences between the two bills, but the more moderate Senate bill has the best chance of passing through the conference committee and being signed by the President. Both bills passed on a strict party-line vote, with essentially no support from minority Republicans.

What will this far-reaching legislation mean for Washington state?

Cigarette Taxes to Increase in 2010?

December 28, 2009 in Blog

As the legislature gears up for session in January and with the state facing a multi-billion dollar deficit (yet again), now is the time to pay close attention to trends the legislature may take. Perusing this pre-filed bill page can be useful.

One of the bills introduced today is House Bill 2493, an act "relating to the taxation of cigarettes and other tobacco products." Sponsored by Representative Cody, the bill, if passed, would raise cigarette taxes yet again. Currently, the state charges $2.025 per pack for cigarettes. 

Reading through the bill, it looks like the taxes would amount to $1 per pack more if the legislature and the governor sign off on the bill. That's about a 50% tax increa!
se for smokers. 

If the goal is to eradicate smoking, then the tax should be hiked even more. If the goal is to raise money for education programs, health care centers, water quality, and programs to stop youth violence, then a 50% increase in taxes will most likely move people towards purchasing tobacco from non-sanctioned sellers (aka the black market). The state says it already loses over $200 million in tax revenue per year to illegal sales of untaxed cigarettes. 

If policymakers are looking for a quick buck to help shore up the $2.6 billion budget deficit, this isn't the way. If, however, policymakers want more people to live up to what is sure to be their 2010 New Year's resolution, then raise the tax even more. My hope is that whatever our elected officials end up doing, they are honest about their motivations behind the tax hike.