State Senate approves health coverage assistance during labor disputes

Feb 2, 2024, 4:51 PM

health coverage assistance...

UPS workers on strike (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Along a party line 30-19, Democrats in the Washington State Legislature passed Engrossed Senate Bill 5632, which allows striking workers access to subsidized health insurance through the state’s Health Benefit Exchange to administer a worker health plan access assistance program.

This program aims to provide support to employees who lose their employer-provided healthcare coverage due to active labor disputes, such as strikes or lockouts.

The bill’s sponsor Senator Karen Kieser, D-Des Moines, said it will provide a safety net to people who have no access to any other health insurance.

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“This does not require the state to pay for the health insurance, it allows the Health Benefit Exchange to have an open enrollment time for an individual for an individual who is on strike,” Kieser said just before the Senate took the vote on Friday.

Starting January 1, 2025, the Health Benefit Exchange will be responsible for implementing and managing a worker health plan access assistance program for Washingtonians affected by labor disputes.

Individuals would have to “self-attest” regarding the loss of health care coverage because of a labor dispute.

“When an employee decides to support a strike, there should be consequences with that,” Republican Senator Curtis King said.

All 19 Republicans voted no.

“We shouldn’t be offering benefits to have this kind of care,” King said. “We are just incentivizing in some respects to go out on strike.”

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Participants must be ineligible for minimum essential coverage through Medicare, a federal or state medical assistance program administered by the Health Care Authority. Eligibility also extends to those who are eligible to purchase a qualified health plan through the Health Benefit Exchange.

The implementation of this legislation is contingent upon the availability of state funding specifically appropriated for this purpose. So far, funding has not been approved.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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