sen. steve o'ban

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

As the death toll rises, Washington’s Secretary of Health is asking state lawmakers for $100 million in emergency funds to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. That’s a 10-fold increase over what the Washington Senate approved just last week.

“We know we’ve got the coronavirus in our community, we know that we’re having some community spread, we know that the risk is increasing,” Sec. of Health John Wiesman told the Senate Ways and Means Committee Monday morning.

Washington Legislature

Strong opposition and intense lobbying by Washington’s health insurance industry has resulted in a key change to a consumer-oriented measure designed to address rising premium costs.

The proposal from Democratic state Sen. Christine Rolfes originally aimed to require the state’s Office of Insurance Commissioner (OIC) to factor in a company’s surplus funds when deciding if a proposed rate increase was reasonable.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

In response to a rash of nursing home closures in Washington, a Republican state senator is calling for an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates and other steps to stave off additional closures.

“We are in a crisis of skilled nursing facilities and beds,” said Sen. Steve O’Ban, a Pierce County Republican.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington is poised to become the first state in the nation to offer a public health insurance option, as well as a new, employee-paid long-term care benefit.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat who is running for president, signed both landmark measures into law Monday at a packed bill signing ceremony in the State Reception Room at the Capitol in Olympia.