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Morning Wire: Disparities in health outcomes, Guaranteed basic income, June hearings

I’m about to host a conversation with Rep. My-Linh Thai, CEO of CHPW Leanne Berge, and Ali Thomas, MD, of Kaiser Permanente. We’ll talk through health disparities across race, from vaccine utilization to social determinants of health, and how both market activity and policy making can impact population and individual health. 

You can register to join the conversation here

With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Is a guaranteed basic income headed to King County?

King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove announced last week that he plans to request a study of a King County Basic Income Program in the county’s spring supplemental budget. The study will analyze the benefits of a guaranteed monthly income for residents. The Puget Sound region has been a laboratory for these polices in the past. 

Seattle was among the cities where between 1968 and 1974, the federal government experimented with a “negative income tax” – a variant of the basic income. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards are among the mayors who have joined the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a group that advocates for a Guaranteed Income by supporting pilot programs for testing the idea. Later this summer, Tacoma will launch a guaranteed basic income pilot in which 100 residents will receive $500 a month for a year. 

2. FYI: June legislative hearings

As always, we at the Wire are tracking what the Legislature is up to during the interim. Action resumes on June 14th as the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Health & Long Term Care will conduct a work session on assisted outpatient treatment, among other issues. The following day, the House and Senate Labor Committees will conduct a joint hearing on return to work efforts and changes in workforce and unemployment insurance claimants’ demographics. 

On June 17th, the Senate Law and Justice Committee will look at firearm laws enacted since I-594 and provide an update on the Centralized Firearms Background Check Program. On June 23rd, the Joint Committee on Employment Relations will provide an update on state employee bargaining consequences from the 2021 legislative session, including long-term costs. Closing out the month on June 29th will be a Joint Legislative Task Force on Water Supply hearing. Note the increasing importance of water supply in policy here. It’s not just about rural wells… 

3. Floyd murder marked by legal and policy developments

he one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder last week was marked in Washington State by notable legal and policy developments. First, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed felony charges against three Tacoma Police Department officers involved in the homicide of Manuel Ellis. This is the first time the Washington Attorney General’s Office has criminally charged police officers for the unlawful use of deadly force, and just the second time homicide charges have been filed in Washington against law enforcement officers since Washingtonians adopted Initiative 940 in November 2018.

Second, the King County Council approved the first ever countywide ban of facial recognition technology today. The legislation, prime sponsored by Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, prohibits the use of facial recognition software, including by the King County Sheriff. According to the Council, studies have found that facial recognition software is often far more likely to misidentify Black or Asian faces, especially Black women. 

4. Murray and Jayapal leading federal health reform efforts

Washington Senator Patty Murray sent out a letter last week asking for public input on how to structure legislation to develop a public health insurance option. Murray and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. laid out eight key questions they are trying to answer via public input, from how the public option’s benefit package should be structured to the way it interact with Medicaid and Medicare. 

Murray’s Washington counterpart in the lower chamber, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, has led the House effort in favor of Medicare of All. In March, a group of more than 100 House Democrats reintroduced Jayapal’s Medicare for All legislation. This time around, Pallone Jr. signed on a co-sponsor, which was seen as a promising sign by progressives. A March Morning Consult poll which found that nearly 70% of Americans, both Democrat and Republican, support a public health insurance option. The same poll found that about 55% of Americans support Medicare for All.

5. Virtual Conversation: Addressing variation in health equity

From vaccine distribution to access to health care services, there continues to be variation in health outcomes based on race, gender, and economic status. Later today, on Wednesday, June 2, from 11:00am – 12:00pm PDT, our sister site will host Rep. My-Linh Thai, Community Health Plan of Washington CEO Leanne Berge, and Dr. Ali Thomas, Medical Director, Healthcare Career Pathways at Kaiser Permanente of Washington, for a conversation on how Washington’s health care system can do by better by our neighbors and community members.

This free event is part of our “Virtual Conversations” series, and will feature “5 Slides” or graphics brought by our guests and the State of Reform team. This event is free to attend, but you have to register to join us. We hope to see you there!


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