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Legislature acts on capping out-of-pocket medical expenses

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Out-of-pocket medical expenses are crushing some Washington families – even though they have health insurance. A key legislative committee voted Thursday to place an overall cap on how much a family would have to pay each year.

At a recent legislative hearing, a parade of families – some on the verge of tears – told Washington lawmakers of their plight.

The stories went like this: a chronic illness leads to expensive medications and treatments. Insurance covers some of it, but deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses mount. Kristin McNulty has a young son with hemophilia. She told the panel her family spent $16-thousand on health care last year.

“We’re just at a point right now where we’re having to make huge sacrifices. Do you we make our medical payment or do we send our kids to pre-school?” McNulty said.

The proposal before lawmakers would create a single cap on out-of-pocket expenses of $12,000 a year for a family. Health insurers warn this change could increase premiums. A similar cap is set to take effect nationally because of the federal health care overhaul. But that’s not until 2014.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

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Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.