Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Health Care Roll-out
December 2, 1998
Good Afternoon. With me today are Sen. Pat Thibaudeau and Rep. Ed Murray, as well as officials of Children’s Hospital and other leaders in the medical and health care fields. We’re here at Children’s Hospital to announce how we plan to use the state’s portion of the recent tobacco settlement to help kids and to help families.
Thanks to the hard work of Attorney General Christine Gregoire and her staff, our state is one of 46 in the nation that will receive millions of dollars from the settlement with the tobacco companies. I’m proposing the following use of those funds. This plan has been endorsed by Attorney General Gregoire, and by Sen. Thibaudeau and Rep. Murray.
First, I propose to put $157.5 million of the tobacco settlement funds into the Health Services Account to maintain basic health care. Among the items are: $73 million to rescue and stabilize the Basic Health Plan; $81 million for the Medicaid Healthy Options Program covering children in families under 200 percent of the poverty level; and $4 million expand subsidized health coverage for 10,000 children we aren’t covering now by extending coverage to children between 200 to 250 percent of the poverty level.
Second, I am proposing a $150 million endowment fund to support public health efforts to combat smoking. The endowment fund would be administered by an independent board of trustees, and spending from that endowment would not be politicized by either the governor or the legislature.
These funds will make it possible for Washington to maintain its lead in being the first state to create a health care program for working families, the Basic Health Plan. We were also the first state in the nation to expand coverage for children up to 200 percent of poverty through our Medicaid program.
These programs have been funded through the Health Services Account, which has experienced revenue shortfalls for the last few years. We have had to take general fund money and plug those shortfalls which has cost us badly needed dollars for other programs like higher education enrollments and K-12 education. The tobacco settlement funds make it possible for this state to maintain its commitment to critically needed health care programs. Without that, the medical needs of children would be in direct competition with public schools for scarce dollars.
It is particularly appropriate that I am here today at Children’s Hospital. This place has been a beacon to the community – a place where all children, regardless of income, have been cared for. I am proud of Children’s Hospital and their groundbreaking work to better the lives of children throughout the state.
And it is also appropriate that I am making this announcement on a day in which we honor one of the great leaders on behalf of the children of our community, John Stanford. John Stanford understood how important it is for kids to be healthy and prepared to learn. In fact, the Seattle School District has been working with the Washington State Hospital Association, Children’s Hospital, Seattle-King County Public Health and others to get children enrolled in our state’s Medicaid program. John Stanford knew that education was not just about what happens in the classroom; that children’s health was fundamental to their ability to achieve.
John would be particularly pleased with our announcement today to expand coverage for children throughout the state from 200 to 250 percent of the federal poverty level. He supported this effort last year when it was proposed, and we should honor his memory by working together to make sure that this program is successfully implemented.
I want this generation to be the last generation of smokers. We are proposing the creation of a $150 million Tobacco Prevention Trust Fund that will be used primarily for prevention and cessation programs targeted to young people. This will allow an unprecedented effort throughout our state to combat smoking.