By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director
Washington First to Offer Public Insurance Option
Washington is the first state in the country to offer a public insurance option to its residents after Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into law on May 13, 2019. Is it any coincidence that Inslee is also running for president? Coming from a traditionally “blue” state with a strong progressive legislature allowed this Democratic candidate to deliver on a particularly interesting policy.
But regardless of presidential aspirations, Washington’s state legislature approved a state-led public insurance option, marking a real shift in how states may think about healthcare coverage for citizens—and the costs associated with that coverage. Offsetting fees and offering a public option to all state residents is an opportunity for states to take control away from the U.S. Congress and decide how to advance health care locally. Washington state is leading the charge to improve healthcare coverage, access, and affordability for its citizens—all topics central to ONS’s health policy efforts.
Healthcare Variations Could Complicate Campaign Trail
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a cornerstone of the Obama administration, and it remains a popular program, even in politically unfriendly territories for the former president. Through ACA provisions, Americans have more access and healthcare protections than ever before, and even Republican members of Congress have voiced support for coverage provisions that include pre-existing condition and insuring dependent children to age 26. Health care was the most important issue in the 2018 midterm elections, and it’s likely to remain there in the 2020 presidential campaigns as well.
Democratic candidates have selected positions that guarantee health care for all—either through Medicare expansion or a single-payer system—but their platforms are nuanced and could confuse voters. As the campaign unfolds, voters will gravitate to certain candidates on healthcare issues, and it may affect the general election against President Trump.
44 States Sue Generic Drug Makers for Inflated Prices
Drug pricing is one of the only bipartisan issues still on Capitol Hill in this congressional session. As of May 11, 2019, nearly every state’s attorney general is involved with tackling the issue. Forty-four states are suing members of the pharmaceutical industry, alleging that companies artificially inflated drug costs for patients. The companies will have to defend their pricing systems—not only in the court of public opinion but in the actual federal court system.
Regardless of the initial outcome, the cases are likely heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. At a minimum, the Supreme Court might demand more transparency, but a ruling from the highest court in the country could have more far-reaching ramifications. Court cases take time and many rounds of litigation until a ruling is made. Unfortunately for many patients, time isn’t always on their side, especially when it comes to costly cancer medications. Help educate policymakers about the financial burdens facing patients with cancer by joining ONS’s advocacy efforts.