Opinion: Another committee, more pie-in-the-sky thinking drives Universal Health Care Commission

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center discusses the Universal Health Care Commission setting up another committee to make recommendations to the Washington State Legislature.

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center discusses the Universal Health Care Commission setting up another committee to make recommendations to the Washington State Legislature

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

The state’s Universal Health Care Commission met again July 13 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. For the first hour and a half, my key takeaway was that the health care commission is setting up and relying on another committee to do the actual job of figuring out how to get universal health care implemented in Washington state.

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

A Finance Technical Advisory Committee (FTAC) is being established to show the commission the money. 

The plan is for the committee to provide subject-matter expertise, dive deeper into the overall financial structure that would underpin a new health care system and outline the new system’s foundational elements and goals. Then the commission would see options and make recommendations to the Legislature. Members discussed the FTAC’s agenda, its charge, the member selection process and its assignments. It will have a role for years with the UHCC, a never-ending commission set up by the Legislature. 

​For people who like the process, this was the place to be. 

Spoiler alert: This exploration has been done. No one has figured out a promising path to universal health care and a single-payer, government-run system that promises affordable health care, higher quality and increased access. 

Creating committee after committee to discuss the pie in the sky has become a common exercise in Washington state, and it’s wasting time that could be spent bringing more transparency to health care costs, more competition, less taxpayer dependency and more choice that can improve the system and costs for all of us. 

A few commission members, including Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, rightly emphasized that one of the main goals for the FTAC has to be dealing with cost containment, which is something that has stumped lawmakers and commissions. He shed some political and operational reality on the subject, saying, “We’re not gonna move this along if we don’t bring (cost containment) to the forefront.” 

After a lot of process talk, the commission went on to discuss how to get even more people dependent on the government and under one roof as a transitional step to a revamped health care system. The federal waiver that was filed to enable the state to provide health care to illegal immigrants was mentioned as one of the ways, as were subsidy increases. Combining all public employees in the state together in the same risk pool was another idea that had some energy among commission members.

Patient-centered health care got a mention at the meeting, which was encouraging. The commission needs to acknowledge, however, that taking away decision-making between doctors and patients won’t get us more patient-centered care. 

The UHCC’s next meeting is on Aug. 16 from 2-4. If interested in attending, see the Health Care Authority website for instructions.

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.


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