Photo depicting a group of volunteers carrying various signs that read, "Medicare for ALL" and "Healthcare is a human right" protesting and raising awareness in a downtown location.

Seattle City Council Supports Universal Health Care, but What’s Next?

by Victor Simoes

On Dec. 6, 2022, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution supporting the implementation of universal health care in the state of Washington and Whole Washington’s ballot initiative.

The ballot initiative, I-1471, proposed by Whole Washington, a grassroots volunteer-led organization of health care workers and citizens from across Washington, aims to create the Washington Health Trust, a publicly financed health care system paid for by a tax on employers’ payrolls and employees’ payroll deductions, as well as on the earnings of investors and sole proprietors.

The City Council’s resolution comes after several failed attempts to pass health care legislatures beyond the City and County levels. Sponsored by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, the resolution mentions support for efforts at the City and State level, such as the Improved Medicare for All Act and federal efforts to establish a Medicare-for-all national health insurance program.

Andre Stackhouse, the campaign director of Whole Washington, explains that this is a nonbinding resolution, meaning it is symbolic and doesn’t change policy or access to health care for anyone. 

“I see positive motion across a number of different avenues for change, but there are still many obstacles ahead,” said Stackhouse.

Stackhouse explains that obstacles vary but are present at all levels of the legislature — at the State level, specific implementation challenges and the unrealistic minimum number of signatures to get proposals to the ballot, and at the federal level, the lobbying power from the health care industry and a very unwilling Congress. 

Whole Washington volunteers tabled to gather signatures for I-1471, an initiative that would put universal health care on the ballot. (Photo courtesy of Whole Washington.)

Established last year by the State Legislature as an answer to community demand for universal health care, the permanent Universal Health Care Commission worries Stackhouse, who says there are many unanswered questions about how this commission will operate and what we should expect from it.

“Ultimately … they’re going to make a recommendation to the legislature,” Stackhouse told the Emerald. “So the first question is, what are they going to recommend, if anything? And we really hope that it’ll be single-payer health care [when the cost of health care for all citizens is covered by a single public entity]. The next question, of course,” said Stackhouse, “is the legislature going to take that recommendation seriously, and implement it?”

Looking at successful examples, like Healthy San Francisco, a program designed to guarantee health care services to uninsured San Francisco residents, Whole Washington plans to continue working for affordable health care in 2023.

“We’re hoping to introduce single-payer legislation into the house this year as well, which would be a milestone for us, because there actually hasn’t been single-payer legislation introduced in the House in a long time,” said Stackhouse. “We’ve had challenges in the past, but I’m pretty optimistic that we will be able to introduce them to the house this year.”

If Whole Washington is successful, this will give it venues to push for more legislative co-sponsors, get public comment, and possibly have a committee hearing.

Stackhouse reflects that ultimately, whether it is a fight to get the initiative to the ballot or trying to get some kind of universal health care, like a single-payer program through the legislature, the movement and its support need to grow, building a “universal campaign for universal health care.” 

“If you think, well, that sounds interesting, but I couldn’t be involved or, you know, they don’t need me, the answer is we absolutely do,” said Stackhouse. “We need as many people as possible, and we need all types of people. And we need people all over the state of Washington.”

For more information on Whole Washington campaigns, upcoming events, and ways to get involved, visit Whole Washington.

Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in journalism and photo/media. Originally from Florianópolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organizing, hyper pop, and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, arts, and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.

📸 Featured Image: Whole Washington volunteers at the Medicare for All rally in Seattle asking senators to cosponsor S.4204, the Medicare for All Act. (Photo courtesy of Whole Washington.)

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