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

How Mandates Increase Costs and Reduce Access to Health Care Coverage

April 2, 2010 in Publications

In June 2002, the Washington Policy Center published a study showing how state-imposed mandates add to the cost of health insurance.  Since then state lawmakers have added new mandates, and the cost of insurance has continued to rise.

Secretary Locke to business: Just write it off!

March 29, 2010 in Blog

During last week's fallout from the ObamaCare vote, several large companies expressed concern that the new system will eventually cost their businesses, employees and shareholders, millions of dollars over the next decade. 

AT&T announced that it will be forced to make a $1 billion writedown due solely to the health care bill. Deere & Co. announced cost increases of $150 million, Caterpiller, $100 million; AK Steel, $31 million. 3M, $90 million, et. al. As The Wall Street Journal points out, consulting firm Towers Watson estimates the cost this year at $14 billion, unless corporations cut retiree benefits. 

The response from Commerce Secretary Gary Locke? 

"...[Locke] took to the White House blog to write that while ObamaCare is great for business, 'In the last few days though, we have seen a couple of companies imply that reform will raise costs for them.' In a Thursday interview on CNBC, Mr. Locke said 'for them to come out, I think is premature and irresponsible.'"

In other words, businesses should just keep quiet about higher costs to come as a result of ObamaCare. This, despite the fact that corporations are required to immediately restate their earnings to reflect the present value of their long-term health liabilities, including a higher tax burden. 

Reminds me of this classic Seinfeld clip:

Health law’s heavy impact

March 28, 2010 in In the News
Spokesman Review
Spokesman Review
Sunday, March 28, 2010

McKenna v. health care reform, Part 2

March 24, 2010 in In the News
Spokesman Review (Spokane)
Spokesman Review (Spokane)
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

National Health Care Reform Plan Will Have Troubling Consequences in WA

in Press releases

Spokane – The national health care reform plan signed into law by President Obama today will have far-reaching effects across the nation and right here in Washington state.

Washington Policy Center, a non-partisan public policy research organization with offices in Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, and Tri-Cities, is analyzing the new law.  Dr. Roger Stark, a retired surgeon and a health care policy analyst with WPC, has made some startling findings about its impact in Washington state:

Change is slow after health battle

March 23, 2010 in In the News
The Olympian
The Olympian
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Walgreens Bails on Medicaid - Tip of the Ice Berg

March 19, 2010 in Blog

The Seattle Times reported on March 17th that Walgreen Drug Stores throughout the state would no longer take new Medicaid patients starting next month. This follows the decision of Bartell Drugs last month to stop taking new Medicaid patients. Fred Meyer and Safeway continue to take new Medicaid patients, but do so at no profit. Walgreen's action is consistent with fewer providers accepting Medicaid patients throughout the country.

Medicaid began in 1965 as an insurance program for children of poor families, the disabled, and certain individuals needing long term care. Funding was a 50/50 proposition between state and federal tax payers. The original budget was $500 million, yet by 1970 the cost of the program was $5 billion. Medicaid has now grown into the largest entitlement in the United States with a cost in 2008 of $330 billion and a projected cost of $580 billion in 2013 with the existing program. (Washington Policy Center Policy Brief)

As the number of Medicaid recipients has grown, the program has become one of the top three budget items for virtually every state in the country. As state budgets have been cut, funding for individual Medicaid patients has decreased and their access to health care has likewise diminished. As reported in the New York Times (here), this is a crisis occurring throughout the country.

One of the provisions of ObamaCare is a massive expansion of Medicaid, resulting in one out of five US citizens receiving their health care through the entitlement program. It is foolhardy at best and pure lunacy at worst to place more patients in a bankrupt insurance plan where the existing members are experiencing more and more difficulty finding care.

ObamaCare: What Happens Now?

March 17, 2010 in Publications

The much anticipated health care summit was held recently in Washington, D.C. President Obama controlled the microphone and served as moderator, timekeeper, and chief negotiator with the Republicans.

Voters will see right through 'deem and pass'

March 16, 2010 in In the News
Olympia Business Watch
Olympia Business Watch
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Senate passes small biz tax credit (for some)

March 11, 2010 in Blog

Last night the Senate passed ESSB 5899, which will provide a B&O tax credit up to $4,000 for each newly hired employee for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. It passed unanimously

The catch? The business doing the hiring has to also offer health insurance to its employees in order to qualify for the credit. The language in the bill states,

"The credit equals: Four thousand dollars for each qualified employment position with wages and benefits greater than forty thousand dollars annually, and for which the business offers a health care plan, that is directly created in an eligible business..."

That seems reasonable but the unfortunate side of things is that only 59% of businesses in Washington with between 2-9 employees offer health insurance. Only 73% of businesses with between 10-24 employees offer health insurance. 

This B&O tax credit certainly won't harm economic growth, and the idea behind it is solid (if somewhat overly optimistic). However, cutting off almost 40% of the very small business firms in the state from this benefit because they do not offer health insurance to their employees artificially curtails job growth that could have taken place based solely on the tax credit. 

Some of the small firms simply are unable to afford the cost of health insurance and this tax break could have helped them rectify that situation.