King County Council votes 5-4 to support "Obamacare"

The following two news releases from King County show the deep divide on the County Council with regard to the Federal Healthcare Reform and the impact it will have on county finances.

Former Council Democrats push through partisan resolution praising Obamacare

Report says it will cost King County between $18 and $34 million

Despite the looming $60 million 2011 budget shortfall, the Metropolitan King County Council today pushed through a partisan resolution praising the recently passed federal health care bill. According to a non-partisan staff report prepared for the Council, the new health care legislation could cost the county between $18 and $34 million. The resolution passed by a narrow 5-4 vote.  Councilmembers Larry Phillips, Bob Ferguson, Julia Patterson, Larry Gossett and Jan Drago voted in favor. Councilmembers Jane Hague, Kathy Lambert, Reagan Dunn, and Pete Von Reichbauer voted “no.”

“The fact that this resolution passed in light of our financial situation, is just plain irresponsible,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “I’m a firm believer in government acting as a protector for our society’s most vulnerable. However, the new health care bill is bloated, sloppy government at its worst.”

“I am concerned that the Health Care legislation recently passed by Congress is not fiscally sound,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “The health care services begin several years after the new taxes start, so it funds about six years of service over the first decade of tax collection.  Also, the bill does not address the federal reimbursement rate for Medicare, known as the ‘doctor fix.’ This piece was moved to a separate piece of legislation so the tens of billions in cost for the doctor fix would not be part of the Congressional health care bill, which makes it look more affordable than it really is.“

Motion 2010-0221 also takes a brazen political shot at a former colleague, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, and praises Governor Christine Gregoire.  Councilmember Lambert proposed three amendments that would have, among other things, eliminated that language.  Amendment #3 pointed to the fact that the Gregoire would have to hire outside lawyers to oppose the Attorney General’s lawsuit which could cost state taxpayers millions. Another amendment highlighted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s hefty price tag. The bill is expected to increase the already ballooning national debt by a trillion dollars. All five proposed amendments were rejected by a 5-4 vote.

The County’s budget problems are so severe that County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed putting an increased sales tax on the August ballot. In addition, today’s health care resolution appears to contradict the recently passed “Priorities for 2010.”  Prominently named in the priorities is “financial stewardship.” The stated goal is:  “Exercise sound financial management in adopting a balanced budget that reflects the values of King County residents and building the county’s fiscal strength.”

“I voted for the adoption of the ‘2010 Priorities,’ along with all my other colleagues,” said Councilmember Hague. “Supporting the health care bill, with all of its potentially crippling costs to King County, is not consistent with our stated goal of financial stewardship.”

King County Council passes motion supporting federal health care reform

The Metropolitan King County Council today recognized the benefits of federal health care reform with its approval of a motion supporting the recently adopted landmark federal legislation.

“It is time to reform our health care system,” said Council Chair Bob Ferguson, prime sponsor of the legislation. “The Health Care Act isn’t perfect, but it will help provide access to basic health care for the more than 150,000 King County residents who are currently uninsured.”

“Far too many King County residents work hard to support their families but do not have access to affordable healthcare coverage, which is why King County will benefit from national health care reform,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “Without reform, uninsured King County residents end up at places like Harborview Hospital for emergency care that must be paid for by King County taxpayers.”

The adopted motion acknowledges the benefits of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and supports its implementation. It follows up on a resolution unanimously passed by the King County Board of Health last year urging Congress to enact health reform with the principle of giving all people access to affordable, comprehensive health care services on an equitable basis.

“Federal Health Care Reform will allow the thousands of uninsured King County residents to receive the basic health care that many of us take for granted,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett.

“The positive impacts of the federal legislation will be felt right here at home, because better access to healthcare will translate into less pressure on our public health and community health programs in King County,” said Councilmember Jan Drago.

Over 150,000 King County residents, approximately 12 percent of the population, lack health insurance. Many more are underinsured and have insufficient coverage. In addition to providing access to insurance for these King County residents, the legislation notes that implementation of reform will strengthen community health centers and provide tax credits to small businesses that contribute to provide health insurance to their employees.

“Health care reform means more than just insurance coverage,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. “It's about helping people stay well in the first place -- through preventive care like immunizations and mammograms and public health work to make healthier choices easier, like giving kids more safe places to walk and bike. These are straightforward strategies that will improve everyone’s quality of life and reduce their overall health care expenses.”