Washington officials weigh expanding Medicaid under health care reform

Washington officials are moving ahead quickly to set up a new health insurance marketplace where the uninsured can start buying health plans later this year. But one other major element of Obamacare – the expansion of Medicaid to cover more of the state’s poorest people – is high-centered in the Legislature.

About 250,000 low-income adults in the Evergreen State would become eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act if Washington chooses to fully expand the program. The expansion is one of the changes prompted by the federal health care reform that could eventually get care to more than 800,000 of the state’s 1.1 million uninsured.

The extra coverage comes at federal expense for the first three years and in the early years Washington comes out ahead. But some Republicans worry that the state will be saddled with a hefty bill in later years as federal budgets shrink.

The Medicaid debate is happening as Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange is moving ahead. The exchange, which is a marketplace for policies that would give families a choice of private health plans similar to what workers at major companies already are offered, starts signing up consumers to buy private health-insurance policies Oct. 1.  (The Olympian)

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