For the last couple days I’ve been working on a story for the print edition of the paper on the budget proposal that came out of the state Majority Coalition Caucus-led Senate earlier this week, and specifically its reliance on the federal Affordable Care Act - or Obamacare - to make the numbers pencil out. Obviously, there’s plenty of irony there.
Under the proposed budget, roughly 20,000 part-time state workers, higher education and non-certificated K-12 employees would lose the state-funded health care they currently receive, and instead be pushed into purchasing federally subsidized health care through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (which won’t be operational until January). State employees working less than full time and meeting income requirements would receive a federal subsidy for the purchase, and the state would increase their pay, in theory covering the difference.
“Overall, the Affordable Care Act was meant to expand health care to people who don’t already have it,” says Tim Welch, a spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees. “It’s not a ploy.”
But that’s exactly what Welch and others say the Senate’s budget is using it as. And he says many of the state’s hardworking part-time employees – from community colleges to state parks to the Department of Agriculture – will feel the brunt.