OLYMPIA, Wash. - Almost 1,000 state lawmakers, including 64 from
Washington, have signed a petition asking their federal counterparts
for lower health care costs, a public insurance option, and shared
responsibility for these costs by government, employers and individuals.
No matter what Congress ultimately decides to do to reform the health
care system, they say, the states are going to be carrying out the
plans - and they're as frustrated as anybody else with the health
insurance debate. The group point out that health care is a federal and
state partnership, especially when it comes to covering the poor and
uninsured, and that some states have already made their own reforms
that are working.
Senator Karen Keiser, a Democrat from District 33, is one of more than
60 legislators from Washington who signed the petition. She also chairs
the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee in Olympia.
"We'd like to have a little lighter load, because our health care
budget has gone from 11 percent of the state budget to one-third, since
I've been in the legislature - and that means it crowds out education.
That's just not acceptable."
Keiser believes the Washington Basic Health Plan is a good model for
federal reform, although the state budget crisis has forced cuts that
now have 60,000 people on the waiting list for coverage. That
underscores the need for reform, she adds.
Keiser plans to visit "the other Washington" next week to deliver the
message to Congress as part of a delegation of state and local
lawmakers. She disagrees with those who say a public insurance plan is
off the table.
"I don't think it's dead at all. It's gonna be rough and tough to get a
full, robust public option in this bill out of the Senate; the House is
very supportive. The real key will be in the conference committee,
after the Senate and the House pass their individual bills."
Keiser says all the members of the House and Senate Health Care
committees in Olympia signed the petition, as well as Senate Majority
Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp. It can be viewed
online at www.progressivestates.org