Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Eliminating WA’s Basic Health Plan: What it would mean

The proposed elimination of Washington state’s Basic Health Program would accelerate an already bleak trend in Washington state. It would mean tens of thousands fewer people with health coverage. It would also drive the number of uninsured people in Washington above a million next year.

“I fully recognize the grim budget situation that Gov. Chris Gregoire and state lawmakers face,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Wednesday, after the governor proposed eliminating BHP as a cost-cutting measure for the 2010-11 supplemental state budget.

“No one wants to make these kinds of cuts. Potentially losing this coverage would be disastrous for many of the families that rely on it. I support the Governor's plan to restore the Basic Health Plan. But the situation we're facing underscores the critical need for broader health care reform,” he said. “We must fix what is clearly a broken system. We can’t afford not to.”

The cuts would also mean that Washington’s uncompensated medical care – bad debts and charity care – will rise to a record $1 billion by late 2010, instead of the projected 2011.

Including the proposed BHP cut, the percentage of Washingtonians with no health coverage is expected to rise to 15 percent next year.

Another 20 percent of the state’s residents will be “underinsured,” meaning that they have health coverage, but that they spend more than 10 percent of their income to pay for it.

All told, more than 1 in 3 of the state’s residents will be uninsured or underinsured next year.