Randall introduces bill creating pathway to universal health care

SB 5822 is joined by House’s companion HB 1877 under consideration in Olympia.

State Sen. Emily Randall, 26th Legislative District Democrat, introduced a bill in the state Legislature on Feb. 18 that establishes a pathway to universal health care in Washington state.

SB 5822 was introduced in a Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee public hearing in Olympia. Randall said the bill’s intent is to put in place groundwork for a group of stakeholders to lay out a path implementing a universal health care system in the state.

“With the chaos and the hostility to expanding health care in the current administration, we know that we are not going to get the waivers we need from the federal government right now for a universal health care system,” Randall said in a message to district constituents on Feb. 15.

“This task force would set us up to get that support when there’s a change of administration,” Randall said of the current Trump presidency. “We can’t afford to wait around — we need to start preparing now, and that’s what we’re going to be doing come Monday (Feb. 18).”

A companion bill, HB 1877, also has been introduced in the House. State Rep. Sherry Appleton, 23rd Legislative District Democrat, is a co-sponsor of the House bill.

The Senate version calls for policy and financial frameworks be established for how the state could achieve universal coverage and equitable access and outcomes in the future for all residents. It also mandates the state concurrently evaluate efforts “to ensure statewide affordable access and improvements to coverage for residents in the preceding years through a public option and standardizing benefit plan designs.”

If it is eventually passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, the bill calls for the health care authority to convene a workgroup on establishing a universal health care system in the state. According to SB 1877’s language, stakeholders would include consumers, businesses with expertise in large and small group insurance and self-insured models. Others identified as stakeholders include health care providers and facilities, health carriers, associated state agencies, legislators and labor organizations with Taft Hartley coverage experience.

SB 1877’s language does not create any new entitlement to services or enacts action toward establishing “a cause of action.”