Apr 19, 2012
Earlier this week, the Washington State Legislature finished up after a second overtime session that had lawmakers working through the night until 7 a.m. Due to the hard work of health care and disability advocates, the state’s major health care programs were saved. In addition, the Legislature passed a bill creating a new organization that will help consumers find and compare health insurance plans – a major priority for the National MS Society.
Lawmakers started the session with a significant barrier – a $1.5 billion shortfall that was later reduced by an improving economy and lower-than-expected numbers of people accessing state services. Still, the Legislature couldn’t agree to a final budget before the end of the regular session on March 11 and so the Governor called them back for a 30 day special session.
In the end, the shortfall was closed with a number of steps, including the ending of some tax breaks, fund transfers, and a smaller reserve fund. The National MS Society’s major budget priorities – Medicaid, Basic Health, Disability Lifeline, and long term care - were not cut, due in large part to health care advocates looking out for those who are most vulnerable in our state. MS Activists were visible throughout the session in Olympia, participating in budget hearings and spreading the word in the press about the importance of health care. Thanks to all those who helped out.
The National MS Society’s biggest victory of the session may have been the passage of a bill to implement the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act. We know many people with MS have difficulty finding an affordable health insurance plan that will cover their health care costs. That’s why we are excited for the new health insurance marketplace that will be up and running in the fall of 2013, offering health plans that will take effect January 1, 2014. Because of the Affordable Care Act’s ban on denials based on pre-existing conditions, people living with MS will have access to health care just like everyone else through the marketplace.
For more information on the National MS Society’s advocacy efforts, visit our blog at www.WAmovesMS.org.