Starting next year, Washington’s Obamacare exchange must be self-sustaining. States received vast federal grants to set up their health insurance exchanges, but will have to fund themselves in 2015. In Washington, the exchange will be funded through insurance premium taxes and assessments charged on all plans bought through the exchange.
With a much-reduced budget for next year, incoming health exchange board president Ron Sims is concerned that the board’s budget planning is little more than wish lists. “A budget isn’t a Christmas tree” that you can keep stacking presents under, the Puget Sound Business Journal quoted Sims as saying.
That’s certainly a switch for Sims, former King County Executive, who wrote county budgets in the ’90s that hiked county spending at 3-4 times the rate of inflation. The voters finally had their fill and capped property taxes, but county budgets under Sims continued to be unsustainable because Sims preferred cutting services to actually dealing with the county’s out-of-control employee and health care costs.
Despite his pontificating now that wish lists aren’t responsible budgeting, Sims sure seemed to think the state budget should be built that way. While running in the Democratic primary for Governor against Christine Gregoire in 2004, Sims sought support from liberals and interest groups by calling for a state income tax so the state’s gravy train would continue to overflow.
Here’s to hoping that Sims’s ideas for the health exchange’s budget continue in the “control spending” vein and not toward a surely-quixotic quest to convince the Legislature to raise premium taxes higher.