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Gov. Jay Inslee pushes public health insurance statewide

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Gov. and likely presidential candidate Jay Inslee proposed Tuesday a public health insurance option for state residents, the latest action by a Democratic governor to address Trump administration health policies they say are keeping people from getting the care they need.

Inslee said he will ask lawmakers to consider a plan that would direct the Washington State Health Care Authority to offer public health insurance statewide to anyone in the individual market who is not covered by their employers. Inslee said reimbursement rates would be consistent with federal Medicare plans.

Inslee’s move comes a day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed state-funded health care coverage for 138,000 young people living in the country illegally and reinstating a mandate for everyone to buy insurance or pay a fine — part of former President Barack Obama’s health care law that congressional Republicans eliminated last year.

Inslee said 14 counties in Washington are at risk of losing any access to individual health insurance options. Rising costs are causing some insurers to abandon the individual market in largely rural counties.

“We are on the knife’s edge,” he told reporters.

Washington Insurance Commission Mike Kreidler said the President Donald Trump’s administration has put up “real roadblocks” to health care access.

The Trump administration said in July that it would freeze payments under an “Obamacare” program that protects insurers with sicker patients from financial losses, a move expected to add to premium increases.

Supporters of Inslee’s plan didn’t immediately reveal cost estimates for the proposal, but the governor said “we need to write another chapter of health care reform.”

State Sen. David Frockt, a Democrat from Seattle, said he would sponsor legislation for a public option.

“The Trump administration has done everything in its power to undermine the health care coverage advances we’ve made in Washington,” Frockt said in a statement.

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