Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Health Care Activists Race To Get Single-Payer On Washington Ballot

Whole Washington via Facebook

Single-payer health care could be on the ballot in Washington state in November, but it's a long shot.

As with all citizen initiatives, proponents need to gather 259,622 signatures of registered voters by July 6 in order to qualify. Whole Washington, the group behind the intiative, says it's gathered around 50,000 signatures so far.

The group is relying soley on volunteers to meet the deadline. Nearly all initiatives that make the ballot use paid signature gatherers.

Sara So, who helped write the initiative, says it’s tough to get the word out with an all-volunteer organization. But she remains optimistic. She says when she does reach people, they tend to be supportive. She says single payer just makes sense.

"I have Canadian in-laws and I just look at how the rest of the world does health care and I can’t believe that we’re still working with a profit-based system that leaves many people out and causes financial hardships for so many. It just is illogical to me that we haven’t adopted a better system,” So said.

So says she was distraught after the 2016 election and looking for a way to get involved in politics. She decided to devote her time to the health care issue because it's something she's passionate about. 

Whole Washington estimates 90 percent of people in the state would pay less, from $0 to $200 per  month if the state moved to a single-payer health plan. They've set up a calculator on their website so people can get an idea of how much they would pay under the system.

The single-payer initiative would rely on payroll, capital gains and income taxes. Washington currently doesn’t have an income tax and that provision might spark a legal challenge.

Another question is whether the plan is sustainable. Vermont abandoned its single-payer effort after determining costs would be too high.

If the initiative makes the ballot, it will be listed as I-1600.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.