Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, on Wednesday introduced legislation that will create a universal single-payer healthcare program in the State of Washington. Senate Bill 5957, modeled after California’s successful Senate Bill 562, will create the Healthy Washington Program that will be open to all Washington residents.

“Access to health care is a fundamental basic right,” said Chase. “With the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act, the people of Washington need to know that we have a backup option for health care in our state. This bill will allow the people to take control of their health care through the implementation of a statewide single-payer system. We have too many people living in terror of getting sick and not being able to afford it.”

The Healthy Washington Program will be open to all residents, and will obtain waivers for Medicaid, Medicare, the Exchange, Affordable Care Act programs, and other relevant federal programs. Enrollees in the program will not be required to pay a premium, copayment, coinsurance, deductible or other cost sharing. Under the bill, all licensed healthcare providers may participate and all members shall have a care coordinator. Health plans outside the Healthy Washington Program are prohibited from offering coverage for any service covered by the program. The federal funds and subsidies will be paid to the Healthy Washington Trust.

The Healthy Washington Board will govern the program, will apply for all necessary waivers, and will negotiate rates with providers. The board will have nine members appointed by the governor, two members each appointed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the Director of the Health Care Authority. The board will adopt payment methodologies and ensure that all payments are reasonable and related to the cost of services. The board will also negotiate for the payment of prescription drugs.

“People going into severe debt because of medical costs should not be the norm,” said Chase. “Medical debt is the number one reason for filing for bankruptcy in the United States. There is more that we must do to move access to affordable health care forward in our state and in our country.”

In this stage, the Healthy Washington program does not have a dedicated revenue source; however, under the bill the legislature is tasked with developing a plan with all future revenue to be deposited in the Healthy Washington Trust Fund.

The policies introduced in Senate Bill 5957 will take effect when the Healthy Washington Board indicates there is enough revenue in the fund to fully implement the provisions in the act.