— A bill passed April 27 by the Washington State Legislature would create a public option for health care coverage, available through Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange. The plan would be known as Cascade Care, and would be the first public health insurance option in the nation.

Senate Bill 5526, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), and led in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Eileen Cody, will give Washingtonians who purchase healthcare coverage on the individual insurance market an option that would decrease the cost of premiums, copays and other out-of-pocket expenses. Gov. Jay Inslee also supported the legislation, and worked with lawmakers throughout the process.

The bill passed with a 56-41 vote in the House, and a 27-21 vote in the Senate.

“Under the current administration in Washington DC, health care policy has gone backwards,” Frockt said. “Their policies have led to dramatic increases in premiums and deductibles for our residents who don’t have employer sponsored coverage rely on coverage from our health benefit exchange.”

Cascade Care will lend predictability by establishing standard benefit packages that are easier for consumers to understand and navigate, and will lower cost sharing — which includes deductibles and copays. The plan will also make cost sharing more transparent and predictable.

“Cascade Care is the next step in affordable and accessible health care for everyone and further demonstrates the Democratic desire to ensure access to care. It is that dedication that has led to the state’s lowest uninsured rate ever and a guarantee of essential health benefits to keep Washington families healthy,” said Rep. Eileen Cody, Chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.

Cascade Care will be available to all Washingtonians, regardless of income, who are not covered by employer health plans. Washingtonians who receive care through an employer, Medicare or Apple Care will not be affected.

The bill has passed both the House and the Senate, and now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing

“Every Washingtonian deserves access to consistent and affordable health insurance,” Frockt said. “We need to ensure that people in every county of our state have options to buy into the individual market. Cascade Care takes imperative steps to establish lower premiums and deductibles. This new option with standardized plans will not only make insurance coverage more affordable, but will allow people to have better access to care when they need it.”