State Hopes To Get Federal Funds For Popular Basic Health Plan

By:  Austin Jenkins
Source: KPLU 88.5

(KPLU) - It won't help the more than 100,000 people currently on the waitlist. But Washington's Basic Health Plan may soon get an infusion of federal cash - courtesy of the new national health care law. US Senator Maria Cantwell was in the state capitol Monday touting a federal bailout for the popular state-funded health insurance program.

Until last year, 100,000 Washingtonians were on the Basic Health Plan. Then came budget cuts. Today the program serves only 65,000 people. And the waitlist includes another 100,000 names. Now comes word that Washington state may be eligible for tens-of-millions of dollars over the next three years for Basic Health. It's part of the new federal health care overhaul. Senator Cantwell wrote a provision into the law specifically for Washington state. It's not enough to add more people to the Basic Health Plan. But Cantwell says it allows the governor to apply for a waiver to use federal funds to help stave off further cuts.

Maria Cantwell: "Hopefully with the success of this waiver application that the governor has now applied for, the federal dollars will be able to help in the next three years to preserve the 65,000 people that are currently on the Basic Health Plan."

Cantwell says in the future Basic Health could expand to cover everyone on the waitlist. But that would be after 2014 when major elements of the new federal health care law kick-in.