A number of bills have been proposed in the most recent legislative sessions, in both chambers, but they did not move forward very far and have all failed. Additionally the I-1600 from the Health Care for All group did not garner enough signatures to make it to the ballot for the general election this fall. That said, a similar bill to the ones proposed by Rep. Appleton and Sen. Frockt will likely be introduced again in January 2019 at the start of the next session.

Meanwhile, the legislature did appropriate $100,000 for a study by UW researchers to look into models of universal care and single-payer systems for their potential implementation in Washington State.

In working on some of the front lines in public health and in rural communities, I am invested in making sure that our needs in Southeast Washington are a part of these efforts. We cannot afford to let health care and health care coverage continue to be a partisan issue. Too many of us are caring for ailing parents, supporting adult children with developmental disabilities or mental illness, dealing with the effects of a runaway opioid crisis, or trying to make ends meet despite our own health conditions.

I support the implementation of a single-payer health care system for the State of Washington that is inclusive of all residents in the state, and that takes into specific account the different needs and issues for residents who live in rural, geographically isolated, medically underserved, or exurban communities. I respectfully submit that we can use a mix of cost savings from moving away from our expensive patchwork of insurance programs and health care systems to one system, shifted employer payments (from covering part of employee premiums, to paying the state program, and based on the size of its corporation), and innovation waivers from the federal government.

We should have health care access when we need it, to protect our health, our lives, our homes, and our communities. I am troubled when I hear that provider administration is so difficult that doctors give up and close their practices, or that patients are scheduled for extra visits just so providers can get paid. We can do better and we have to do better.

Community College Tuition Support:

The statistics on young adults’ entry into the workforce show some barriers for their generation, most of them related to finances—costs related to commuting, rents, and tuition—put post-secondary education out of reach for many people, and then after four years of college they are burdened with decades’ worth of tuition-related debt that can turn into strikes against their credit if they are late on payments or worse, default on a student loan.

Meanwhile trades and apprenticeships often go without enough students and journey men and women. Somewhere between our longstanding attention only on a college or university education as the means to a successful future, the loss of American manufacturing, degraded support for unions, and lack of attrition in trades jobs as older workers keep working past traditional retirement age, we have underutilized these programs for the trades. But community colleges often offer excellent courses in these areas, and can serve as a way of providing access for young people into well paying, satisfying careers. And for students who want to go on to a four-year school, community college can serve as a way of making a bachelor’s degree much more affordable.

Several other states have begun “free college” programs that cover the cost of community college for students (e.g.: Tennessee, Maryland, and New Jersey), and these programs have varied in terms of eligibility, support caps, what types of education are included, and how many colleges are in the program. Also, funding a tuition remission program has varied among these states, depending in part on how large the program is (e.g., how many students will meet eligibility criteria), if the program uses traditional student financing avenues (like Pell grants, for example) before paying benefits, and how much tuition the program is trying to cover (community college tuition being lower than tuition at a private four-year college).

I know that Washington can find a workable, sustainable balance to help students recently graduated from high school, and invest in their future, which will in turn improve communities across the state. Earlier generations had government help in accessing college, including Social Security and G.I. Bill programs; this generation needs its own support system, leveraging what has been available with new solutions to help them achieve their full potential for our state and our region. I fully support designing a program to help young adults learn and grow, and contribute to our state.