Washington might have one of the best track records in the country as Obamacare gets under way, but the national huzzahs for a website that actually functions and the hoopla about big signups are overblown, lawmakers said Thursday. Here’s what the numbers don’t tell you: 90 percent of the signups have been for free Medicaid coverage, and signups for regular policies have been dismal. Public furor seems to be growing about the high cost of premiums, lawmakers say — for many policies are less affordable than before. We’ll find out in five weeks how it all turns out, but disaster could be around the corner.
As a public-comment period finally ends on a Longview coal-terminal project, governors and attorneys general from Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming are putting Washington state on notice that it better not try to block shipments to make a not-very-effective statement against global warming. For one thing, they say it won’t make a whit of difference in the global climate. And for another, they say it is a violation of provisions of the U.S. Constitution that prohibit states from interfering in interstate commerce and usurping federal-government authority to regulate international trade. Sounds like a court case could be in the offing.
Last month Jessica Sanford of Federal Way was singled out in a speech by President Obama after she sent a fan letter for the Affordable Care Act. Finally her dream of affordable health insurance would be realized, she wrote. But it didn’t turn out that way. After two successive mistakes by the state health-exchange website were cleared up, it turns out she does not qualify for any tax credit at all. Now she says she still can’t afford health insurance, and she’ll have to go without. And get this — there may be a third goof involved.
The president is relenting in the face of public furor, backtracking on federal rules that turned the nationwide insurance market upside down and forced the cancellation of health policies that covered millions – and insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler is having nothing to do with it. The issue isn’t as simple as you might think. Kreidler has been one of Obamacare’s biggest cheerleaders, to be sure, but even the insurers Kreidler regulates say it’s too late — this is one bell that can’t be unrung.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for a special session on transportation Nov. 21. Judy Clibborn and Curtis King, the key players on the transportation deal now being cooked in the back rooms of the Legislature, say they still have big issues to resolve before they shake hands on a deal. Even if they shook hands now, there wouldn’t be enough time to write the bill — so much for getting done before the Apple Cup. But worth noting: Democrat Clibborn says she can support a controversial Senate proposal that would eliminate the sales tax on construction materials, a key measure among the Senate’s reforms.
That didn’t take long, did it? Just after the start of business Thursday following rejection of a labor contract by Boeing Machinists, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, has proposed making Washington a right-to-work state. Suddenly lawmakers have to find a way to make Washington look more attractive to the jetmaker, and you can count on other big issues to follow, workers’ comp and moderation on water-quality standards among them. You can expect howls from labor if talk gets serious, but Baumgartner’s proposal demonstrates how everything has changed. Here’s the announcement.
It’s not over yet, a grim-faced Gov. Jay Inslee says Wednesday night after angry Boeing Machinists shoot down a labor contract that would have assured Boeing’s next-generation 777X will be made in Washington. But now that Washington must compete against suitors nationwide to woo Boeing officials, it could change everything in the Legislature. Not only might it light a fire under efforts to negotiate a transportation deal, it also could move workers’ comp and water-quality standards to center stage. It might also stop an Inslee push for climate-change legislation before it gets started. The union’s Boeing rebuff could mean a whole new ballgame at the statehouse.
At long last, a new transportation proposal surfaces in the Senate, replete with big reforms, more money for mega-projects, no tolls on I-90 — and a slightly higher gas-tax increase than passed the House this year, at 11.5 cents a gallon. Big issues remain to be negotiated with the House, and there is no telling whether lawmakers will reach agreement before Nov. 21, when another special legislative session might be held. And it is becoming clear that Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to seek greenhouse-gas legislation might throw a monkey wrench into the process. But now, finally, the dealmaking can begin.