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Washington lawmakers say they can’t plan yet for health care changes as GOP hopes to repeal Obamacare stall in Congress

UPDATED: Thu., March 23, 2017

FILE – Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, on April 8, 2015. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, on April 8, 2015. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Changes to the nation’s health care system could cost Washington $1.5 billion and bump hundreds of thousands off health care, but they are so uncertain that legislators can’t make plans as they put together a state budget for the next two years.

Spokane Rep. Timm Ormsby, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers are aware that efforts to change the Affordable Care Act nationally could have significant effects in Washington. But they can’t really prepare for those yet.

“There are so many contingencies we’d have to plan for, it would be paralysis by analysis,” Ormsby said Thursday, shortly before the vote on major changes was postponed in the U.S. House of Representatives. He echoed earlier comments from legislative Republicans.

Washington accepted extra federal money to expand Medicaid under the ACA, or Obamacare. If that money were to disappear, some estimates say as many as 600,000 people could lose Medicaid-backed insurance unless the state picked up the tab. But that could cost as much as $1.5 billion, which is not in the current budget proposed this week by state Senate Republicans, and won’t be in a separate budget proposal to be released next week by House Democrats.

Ormsby said budget writers are “going with what we know to be true today,” and that’s the provisions in the ACA.

With so many variables being discussed in Congress, “there’s no purpose in coming up with contingencies,” said Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, the Appropriations Committee vice chairwoman.

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