Coverage on Coronavirus is everywhere – tv, newspapers, even whispered in the halls of the Capitol. Everyone is wary of rooms full of coughs and sniffles, and the perfume of cough drops mixed with hand gel permeates public places. Washington State had the first confirmed case in the United States in January – and public health immediately jumped into action.
As people have become more mobile and global, so too have viruses and diseases. While Coronavirus is a novel disease and currently a global emergency, the work public health does to control and prevent the spread of this virus is not new. Public health is well trained to respond to situations like this – in fact, in recent years we’ve had to respond to many serious threats. Ebola, Zika, and H1N1 are all global outbreaks that have required local response.
But our public health system is in crisis from years of underinvestment and trying to respond to these emerging threats while also fulfilling our mandated and prioritized obligations to our communities.
Additional and stable investments in public health and funding to help more people buy health insurance will improve the health of everyone in our state. We want everyone, everywhere—from the smallest to the largest community in our state—to have access to healthcare and the protections our public health system provides. Healthy people help create a safe and clean environment, attract business and economic growth, and improve community resilience that protects against emergencies.
It makes good business sense for health carriers to invest in a system that helps people be as healthy as possible. Carriers have room in their budgets to help people who don’t qualify for healthcare financial subsidies and for a financial partnership with the public health system. Their surpluses in Washington, currently in the billions of dollars, include funds from health insurance premiums not spent on claims and revenue from investments. It is good business practice to carry a certain amount of surplus in case of emergencies. Proposed legislation in Olympia, HB 2679, gives them a chance to use the remainder to make smart investments in community health.
These investments will help fill critical gaps in public health infrastructure, so when the next threat lands in Washington, our system in prepared and equipped to swiftly respond while continuing the everyday work in keeping communities healthy and safe.
We all play a role in improving health. We urge the legislature to pass HB 2679.
To learn more about our local in-depth response and work in Snohomish County addressing coronavirus:
Recent articles and editorials on public health funding: