Cantwell Briefs State Officials on Health Care Reform Law, Rescue Plan for Basic Health

Cantwell-authored provision enables state to maintain Basic Health Plan funding for approximately 65,000 enrollees

OLYMPIA, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined elected state officials and community members at the state capital to discuss provisions in the new health care reform law important to Washingtonians.  In particular Cantwell focused on the wins she secured to keep the state’s Basic Health Plan whole and running.  Basic Health has been under consideration for possible elimination to help address a $2.7 billion state budget gap. The program had been forced to make cuts, reducing its enrollment by 36,000 in less than a year.  Cantwell authored a provision signed into law last Tuesday by President Obama as part of the health care reform measure that will preserve and ultimately expand the Basic Health Plan. The Cantwell language provides a pool of ‘bridge-funding’ Washington can tap into to keep the program alive. It also provides for fully funding the program beginning in 2014, relieving the state’s stretched budget and freeing up millions of dollars to maintain other crucial programs and services. Cantwell’s provision enables the state to prevent the likely loss of coverage for the most vulnerable 65,000 enrollees in the coming months and years.
“This is a huge win for Washington state,” Senator Cantwell said.  “With this bridge funding, we’ll be able to keep thousands of Washingtonians on Basic Health.  And in 2014, the program will be fully funded and available for other states to replicate, so they too can realize the cost savings and expand coverage to those who cannot afford it.  Washington state’s leadership is once again serving as the nation’s model of what works.”
Senator Cantwell’s provision givesall 50 states the option to negotiate directly with health insurers to provide high quality health care coverage at a lower cost.  The plan directs money to participating states and lets them use their purchasing power to negotiate with private insurance carriers.  The annual cost of a typical individual plan would be $4,100.  That’s 30 percent less than the $5,850 the same plan would cost in today’s private market.
The main provisions of the law, including the Basic Plan, do not take effect until 2014.  For that reason, Cantwell authored a provision to provide critical short-term relief for Washington state.  The law allows the state to apply for federal funding that would cover two-thirds of the cost of the state’s Basic Health Plan until 2014.  The state would be eligible for grants of up to $180 million per year.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains significant wins across the board. Because of health care reform, in Washington state:
·         The Basic Health Plan can receive federal support of about $180 million beginning early in 2011, in time to relieve budgetary pressures on the plan in the current fiscal year.
·         The Basic Health Plan beginning in 2014 will receive funding that could roughly triple the roles, from 65,000 to about 200,000.
·         Approximately 810,000 Washingtonians who are currently without insurance will have affordable coverage options.
·         Up to 92,500 small businesses will be eligible for tax credits for premiums.
·         Approximately 897,000 seniors will have their drug costs in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” covered or other Medicare benefits improved.
·         Over 615,000 young adults can now stay on their parents’ insurance plans.
·         More federal funding will go toward 232 Community Health Centers in Washington.
·         Family health insurance premiums will be reduced by 14 to 20 percent (or by $1,470-$2,090) for the same benefits, as compared to what they would be without health reform by 2016.
Cantwell, a member of the Senate Finance Committee that played a major role in crafting the law, authored several key provisions including a new Medicare reimbursement formula that will reward quality care, greater transparency in the Pharmacy Benefit Managers industry to lower drug prescription costs, and expanded opportunities for home and community-based care for seniors as opposed to nursing homes, which are 70 percent more expensive.