The 2008 Washington legislative session hasn't even reached the halfway mark. But it's not too early to look to the 2009 session. Majority Democrats are taking a slow-and-careful approach to this election year session. Republicans - less charitably - call it "punting."
So what's being kicked to next year - after the gubernatorial election? Major health-care reform, a la Massachusetts and California.
Legislative Democrats often brag about their pledge to cover all kids by 2010. Less talked about is their promise to cover all adults by 2012. Currently, some 700,000 Washingtonians are uninsured.
But 2012 is four short years from now. And there's a lot of heavy lifting to be done between now and then. "I think it definitely creates a lot of pressure for next biennium," says Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.
Several sweeping health-care reform proposals - from both sides of the aisle - are bouncing around Olympia these days. Top among them are Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's proposal to provide catastrophic insurance to all Washingtonians and a Wisconsin-style plan proposed by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.
But there will be no major reforms this year. Instead, majority Democrats plan to form a task force that will evaluate the various proposals, seek citizen input, and advise the governor and Legislature on how to proceed. It's a safe and, some would argue, prudent approach in this 60-day, election-year session.
Next year, though, watch for the debate to begin in earnest over how best to reform health care and health insurance in Washington – and how to pay for it.
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