State lawmakers pass expanded charity health care bill

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state legislature passed an expanded charity health care bill Tuesday that would make approximately half of Washingtonians eligible for free or discounted healthcare.

House Bill 1616 will expand charity care eligibility to an additional 1 million Washingtonians than who qualified before.

According to the state attorney general’s office, about two-thirds of people who file for bankruptcy nationwide say medical bills are the biggest reason why, and more than half of collection items on credit reports are for medical debt.

“Too many Washingtonians are just one hospital bill away from financial crisis,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “Under current law, a single parent working two minimum wage jobs at 50 hours per week was not eligible for financial assistance at Washington hospitals — that’s not right and it needed to change. This bill ensures that help is there for those who need it.”

The bill’s sponsors say access to health care is also an equity issue, as communities of color are insured at a disproportionately lower rate.

The bill now heads to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature.