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Originally published Monday, February 18, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Editorial: Ensure Washington state Medicaid expansion

Washington lawmakers can provide health insurance to hundreds of thousands of residents through Medicaid expansion. Make it happen.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE operative phrase is “newly eligible.” Expansion of the state Medicaid program via the federal Affordable Care Act will extend health insurance to legions of people.

Among those who would have access to medical care are single men earning less than $14,850 a year. Another current gap in coverage hits a swath of adults ages 50 to 64.

Some lawmakers in Olympia have expressed reservations about this opportunity while not outright opposing it.

They should look at the number of uninsured in their home counties. From 35 percent to 50 percent of the uninsured residents of Adams, Whitman and Yakima counties would be eligible. The same for Clallam, Grays Harbor and Cowlitz counties on the west side of the state.

Hospitals and clinics in their districts would welcome the relief Medicaid expansion offers them.

Many conservative states have made the call to embrace Medicaid expansion. Too many hardworking constituents will be helped, and too much money saved to blithely ignore the arithmetic.

Washington stands to save $225 million as state Medicaid rolls are shuffled and expanded. The federal government picks up all the cost from 2014 to 2016. Gradually, the share is reduced to a 90-10 federal-state split from 2020 and beyond.

The U.S. Supreme Court endorsed the fundamental legality of the Affordable Care Act, but left open the option for states to decide on various aspects of participation.

Washington was a national leader in the establishment of its Health Care Authority, and its health-care exchange that will provide one-stop shopping for insurance coverage.

Elected leaders and officials recognize the opportunity and are working to help citizens take full advantage. King County Executive Dow Constantine has created a panel of business, labor, education, health-care and community organizations to get the word out.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee expresses confidence in the future of expanded Medicaid coverage.

Skeptical state lawmakers need to make their concerns, options and alternatives known, and not inhibit progress with parliamentary games.

Participation will require budget authority, and it should be provided. Medicaid expansion is an opportunity not to be missed.

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