Letter to the editor: Pandemic shows flaw of tying employment to health care

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Lack of health insurance is associated with 30,000 to 90,000 deaths per year, depending on the study. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30 million Americans didn’t have health insurance and even more were underinsured. Since the start of the pandemic and associated job losses, these numbers have seen exponential growth. Even for those with insurance, costs are so high that medical bills are the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Our people deserve better.

Here in Washington, our private and for profit healthcare system was failing us as well. About 522,000 Washington residents were without coverage, and those with coverage through Medicare or private insurance were struggling to afford the premiums, deductibles and copays required to access necessary healthcare services. If we’ve learned nothing else from this pandemic, it would be the flaw of tying our health care to our employment and not truly understanding the public nature of public health.

In recent years, health care has been a number one concern of most voters in Washington state, regardless of party preference. Washingtonians are experiencing gaps in necessary coverage like dental, vision and mental health care services, a pattern of claim payment denial, and financial burden leading to bankruptcy and desperate turns to social media crowd-sourcing platforms like GoFundMe to pay their medical bills. This is not dignified, nor sustainable. Now is the time for bold leadership. Now is the time to lead with compassion and provide for the most basic of human needs.

To that end, the 20th Legislative District Democrats voted to endorse SB 5204 because comprehensive, quality health care is critical and universal health care systems have been proven time and time again to improve outcomes and reduce costs. Senate Bill 5204 includes a fully-funded transition plan, allows Washingtonians the choice to opt in, allows for negotiation of drug prices and includes much needed cost capitations and out of pocket maximums that are truly affordable (e.g. $200 per month premiums and $250 per year for medications). SB 5204 will improve the overall health and wellness of Washingtonians and save billions of state and taxpayer dollars.

 

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