Dear friends and neighbors,
Since becoming chair of Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee in 2018, I have used the final months of each year to identify the upcoming priorities for the committee. In late 2018, for instance, I laid out seven goals for the 2019 session, and we passed every one of them. I took the same approach in the final months of 2019, laying out four key goals for the 2020 session. Just as in the prior session, I again made sure those goals were met through legislation passed first by my committee and then by the full Senate. Unfortunately, one of those bills failed to pass out of the House after clearing the Senate.
For the 2021 session, I identified five priority goals last December and will work for their passage by the full Legislature this year. First and foremost is to do everything we can to help individuals, households and business recover from the continuing impacts of the pandemic.
- COVID-19 Response and Recovery — No single issue has loomed larger over all our communities than the coronavirus pandemic. With people struggling to make rent and mortgage payments, and businesses struggling to keep their doors open, our economic recovery is paramount. I am introducing legislation to expand the preparedness of our health care system to handle this and future pandemics. We also need to ensure an adequate supply chain of PPE and continue to expand the use of telehealth care, including appropriate reimbursements for audio services.
- Helping Those Who Are Uninsured — While we’ve made historic strides in extending health care coverage to people who had been without coverage, many Washingtonians lost coverage recently as a result of the pandemic. We’re exploring the use of premium subsidies to help people pay for health care coverage, further expansion of our state’s public-option insurance, and other avenues for providing coverage.
- Ensuring Equity and Fairness — As we continue to amass evidence of health disparities among certain populations, we must act on two fronts. We must ensure the data we are gathering is the correct data, and we must identify and condemn racism for the public health crisis it poses to our communities.
- Linking Housing to Health — The link between access to housing and quality of health has become increasingly clear. I have taken a seat on the newly formed Senate Housing & Local Government Committee, where I will be able to ensure a bridge between this committee and the Health & Long Term Care Committee that I chair.
- Increasing Funding for Public Health — Last but far from least, we need to continue increasing funding for public health. This urgent need has been demonstrated by recent measles outbreaks, vaping abuse and the rise in lung infections, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As always, I will update you on the progress of these bills as we work to achieve these important goals and steadily improve our access to the health care we need. Health care is a right that all individuals and families should be able to count on, and at no time has this been more evident than during our current pandemic.