This is an archived article.

December 1, 2000

State’s health-care fiscal crisis is topic of upcoming legislative conference

If the Washington State Legislature just wants to maintain current spending on health care, it will exceed the mandatory-spending limit set by Initiative 601 by more than $800 million, according to the Health Policy Analysis Program (HPAP) at the University of Washington.

The health-care fiscal crisis and what can be done about it is the theme of HPAP’s 2000 Washington Health Legislative Conference set for Dec. 5 at the DoubleTree Hotel in SeaTac, Wash. More than 500 people with an interest in Washington’s health-care system are expected to gather for this all-day forum.

HPAP is based in the Department of Health Services in the UW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine. It was established in 1974 to study the issues and public policy measures that affect the health of communities in Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. HPAP policy analysts have published reports in a wide range of health policy areas including health insurance, managed care, access, and quality of care. HPAP has hosted the Washington Health Legislative Conference every year since 1986.

This year, the Washington State Legislature will need to increase spending on health care by $1 billion over the next two years just to maintain the current level of health services, HPAP officials said.

Automatic teacher cost-of-living pay increases approved by voters Nov. 7 will require an additional $460 million in spending from the state’s general fund over the same 2001-2003 period. “Maintenance” level spending on health and other mandated services, coupled with new education spending, will exceed the mandatory spending limit set by Initiative 601 by more than $800 million, HPAP officials said.

At 8:45 a.m. HPAP policy analysts will provide data on the actual shortfall in funding, which programs and services are most vulnerable to being cut, and what policy options are open to legislators. Possible solutions include breaching the spending limits imposed by Initiative 601, increasing taxes, or substantially cutting government services.

“Rising health-care costs, combined with the new priorities for state spending and the Initiative 601 spending cap will make it even more difficult for legislators to approve a state budget for health care that avoids hurting people,” says HPAP Director Aaron Katz.

Breakout sessions at 11 a.m. will feature panels of experts discussing health-care finance, community-based initiatives, and private sector solutions. A few highlights include:

New Approaches to Health Policy-Making: Washington insiders suggest a way out of the “business-as-usual” incrementalism that rules the day in legislative budgeting, according to HPAP. Speakers include top staff from the Governor’s Executive Policy office, the State Senate Ways & Means Committee, Washington State Board of Health, and an outside perspective from a veteran of the Oregon Health Plan Policy Office.

The Communities that Won’t Wait: Three rural Washington communities, hit hard by federal and state cuts in funding, are planning radical approaches to financing and delivery of health care. Solutions range from pooling all public monies into one funding source to a single payer/single provider system.

How Can Washington’s Private Philanthropists and the State Work Together? Can Washington look to private sources for solutions to public problems? Representatives from local foundations including the Paul Allen Charitable Foundation, the Stuart Sloan education improvement project, and the Group Health Foundation share their perspectives.

A detailed agenda is available on HPAP’s Web site, www.hpap.washington.edu.

NOTE: A presentation on the state’s health-care situation begins at 8:45 a.m. on Dec. 5. A news conference to discuss the situation will be held at 10:30 a.m. To get a pass for the conference itself, contact Michele Dulin at (206) 543-3675 or mdulin@u.washington.edu.