While I don’t support government-run plans, I do think there are solutions for decreasing costs and increasing access. At the same time we debate health care reform around the country, elected officials in our Washington struggle with a workable education funding formula that ensures all students receive the same opportunities around the state. The only answers decision makers provide are to either raise taxes, or cut programs. I think it’s time for some new ideas.
While education remains the paramount duty of the state as mandated by our state constitution, we see blows to education budgets every year. Just this year, the Legislature voted to cut $600 million from funding for reduced classroom sizes. I opposed this move as I have heard from many of you that these cuts hurt children the most.
At the same time, health care costs are increasing, workers lose their insurance when they lose or change jobs, and the neediest are being forgotten. I’m supporting a plan here in our state that moves government mandates out of the way, increases choice, allows people to purchase basic insurance that covers their greatest needs, and reduces costs.
Our state is set to spend $5.2 billion on health care in the 2009-2011 budget. In August, I attended a meeting in Chicago with 70 representatives from 30 different states. We all agreed that health care costs affect our states’ budgets more than any other budget item.
If we can provide meaningful, comprehensive health care reform, I don’t think we would need to cut programs or ask for more taxes to fully fund education.
This year with budget reductions, the Basic Health Plan was one such program that suffered. Insurance premiums will be increased next year, pushing the neediest off state-subsidized health care and keeping those on who can likely already afford private insurance plans.
I supported a bipartisan measure this year in Olympia that would have saved the state $300 million every two years by transforming the BHP to serve the truly needy and offer subsidies to other residents to purchase private health insurance. But the bill didn’t receive a public hearing.
When deciding where to find additional education funding, the state need not look further than the debate raging around the country: health care reform. We can do both if we have bold leadership and real solutions within the funding taxpayers are already providing.
Representative Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, represents the state’s 44th Legislative District. He serves on the Education and Education Appropriations Committees in the House of Representatives. He can be contacted at www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/hope.