Parlette bill would continue committee to examine effects of federal health

OLYMPIA… Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, has introduced legislation to extend discussion about implementation of the federal health care bill in Washington state by another year. Senate Bill 5508, which has bipartisan sponsorship, will be the subject of a hearing at 8 a.m. in the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 2.

Following passage of the federal health care reform bill in March 2010, the state Legislature created a 10-member Joint Select Committee on Health Reform Implementation. The committee, which is co-chaired by the House and Senate health committee chairs, met four times between May and November. The committee is scheduled to be disbanded June 30, 2011. Under Parlette’s bill, the committee would have another year to get answers to the important questions surrounding the bill before committing to new state programs and spending.

“This issue is not yet settled at the federal level, which means that any programs put in place on the state level could be subject to change,” said Parlette. “It is important to have more certainty about the federal bill before we decide if we should move ahead at the state level. One of my biggest concerns is that we would put programs into place that the federal government voids, leaving us with state laws still in place for which Washingtonians would have to pick up the full cost. Our budget just can’t sustain paying for new programs right now.”

On Monday a Florida judge ruled the federal bill unconstitutional. This will not necessarily halt its implementation, since the Obama administration is likely to appeal the ruling. There have already been several bills introduced in the Washington state Legislature this year that would begin implementing portions of the federal bill through state legislation.

“It is very important for our state government to be thoughtful, deliberative and measured about the way we approach changes we make to our health care system,” said Parlette. “There is no question that the federal bill is controversial – and we are all aware it’s more than two thousand pages long. That makes an even stronger case for why we must get answers to the many questions surrounding this issue before disbanding the group tasked with making decisions about how our state should proceed. There’s still a lot to learn, and a lot of things that have yet to be decided about this measure before the discussion about state implementation is complete.”