Landmark health reform will benefit all King County residents, Constantine says

King County Executive Dow Constantine is hailing the historic health reform legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives March 21 for the benefits it will provide all King County residents in improving health and reducing rising health care costs.

“One in eight adults in King County doesn’t have health insurance. This legislation will help most get coverage through expanding Medicaid, providing subsidies for purchasing insurance, and funding the community health system,” said Executive Constantine. “This national reform will put downward pressure on the price of health insurance for everyone, including King County government, and more small businesses will be able to buy health insurance for employees.”

“We are on the brink of joining every other developed nation in expanding health care to all of our citizens,” said King County Councilmember and Board of Health Chair Julia Patterson. “This legislation promotes prevention, equity and affordability, and is the first important step in fixing our broken health-care system.”

For people who already have insurance, benefits of the legislation include preventing discrimination by insurance companies based on pre-existing conditions, providing coverage for our children and closing the Medicare “donut hole.”

For the approximately one in eight King County adults — more than 150,000 people — who don’t already have health insurance, this legislation will work to get most covered by extending existing public programs like Medicaid to more low income families, providing additional financing for community health centers and through subsidies to low and moderate income Americans to help them buy health insurance. Additional support will come to small businesses to purchase health insurance for employees.

“We have a golden opportunity to enact comprehensive health reform that emphasizes disease prevention instead of just disease treatment,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer, Public Health — Seattle & King County. “The unprecedented investments in wellness and prevention are both smart for our health and our economy, and will create a better quality of life for everyone.”

In addition to strengthening and expanding health insurance, this legislation provides additional investment in prevention. It eliminates cost sharing for preventative services in Medicare and Medicaid, public insurance programs for aged and low-income individuals. It supports community-based funding such as the recent $25.5 million competitive prevention grant awarded to King County. And it creates a Prevention and Public Health Fund to expand and sustain funding for prevention and public health programs.

This week, the U.S. Senate is expected to act on the final legislation and President Obama has indicated he will sign it.

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