Pin It
Favorite

State of Well-Being 

Spokane scores a medical school as health programs are gutted statewide.

click to enlarge An artist’s rendering of Spokane’s medical school
  • An artist’s rendering of Spokane’s medical school

For the past seven years, Spokane’s business, health and educational leaders have been fighting side by side for one big prize: a health school complex at the WSU-Spokane campus.

The three-building complex would house not just a medical school, but a pharmacy school, and nursing and dentistry programs as well.

All that was needed was $71 million for the building. With the passage of the state budget last week, they got halfway there.

But when Gov. Chris Gregoire released her budget in September, the health school wasn’t getting a cent.

“We were concerned, obviously,” says Barb Chamberlain, spokeswoman for WSU-Spokane. People began saying Spokane wouldn’t have a medical school for 20 years.

Spokane’s lobbying forces went into overdrive.

Avista Utilities made its plane available for lobbyists to fly down to talk to legislators. Rich Hadley, with Greater Spokane Incorporated, flew to Olympia every other week to make the case for the health school. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, made the building a top legislative priority, as did many other Eastern Washington legislators.

“It was a full court press,” Hadley says. It was “the most intense lobbying for a project that wasn’t in the governor’s budget that I’ve ever seen.”

The final capitol budget gave WSU $35 million for the medical building. The school will have to ask for the other half in the next budget cycle.

State Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, says getting the rest is a safe bet. Nobody wants to leave a building half-completed.

But all is not well for health care in the new budget. The Washington State Hospital Association protests what it calls “dramatic cuts to the safety net.” Legislators eliminated about $261 million that helped fund services for Medicaid patients in hospitals, raised premiums on about 250 undocumented immigrant children who are on the Apple Health for Kids program*, and cut over $25 million from regional mental health funds.

Other programs, dead in the governor’s budget, were upgraded to simply wounded.

The Basic Health plan — which offers low-income residents affordable access to private health care plans — survived by excluding non-citizens, limiting eligibility and reducing enrollment in 2013. The Disability Life Line Managed Care program, which provides cash and benefits for those disabled and unable to work, was saved by eliminating cash grants, and focusing on housing assistance instead.

Meanwhile, many of the deep budget cuts made to Medicaid earlier this year continue: The program no longer covers glasses, hearing aids or most routine dental procedures.

Some legislators, like state Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, worry that the cuts to health care will actually cost the state more money in the future.

“They may cost the system more, because [people] get treatment later in their illness and seek treatment at the most expensive places — in emergency rooms,” Billig says.

* An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the cuts to the state's Apple Health for Kids program.

  • Pin It

Speaking of...

  • Too Smart for School
  • Too Smart for School

    What happens when a 12-year-old prodigy tries to go to college in Spokane?
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • Opening New Doors
  • Opening New Doors

    A Spokane college fills a need for refugees and international students, while changing how English is taught around the world
    • Jun 23, 2016
  • Corrective Actions
  • Corrective Actions

    How Spokane Public Schools is trying to solve its student discipline problem
    • Jun 16, 2016
  • More »

Latest in News

  • Won't You Be Our Neighbor?
  • Won't You Be Our Neighbor?

    The people, places and moments that defined and shaped the Inland Northwest's distinct neighborhoods
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • NORTH HILL
  • NORTH HILL

    An influx of creativity and businesses has this Northside neighborhood looking good
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • LATAH / HANGMAN VALLEY
  • LATAH / HANGMAN VALLEY

    Two names and a community bridging new and old
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Daniel Walters

Most Commented On

  • Lane Ends Ahead

    Spokane wants to improve a mile-long section of Monroe — but that means taking away two lanes
    • Jul 7, 2016
  • #BlackLivesMatter is Everyone

    All mothers deserve to know that their innocent children will not die at the hands of law enforcement
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • A New Voice
  • A New Voice

    The Black Lens, continues Spokane's long tradition of African-American publications
    • Jan 21, 2015
  • Taxes: Idaho vs. Washington
  • Taxes: Idaho vs. Washington

    How do the two states stack up?
    • Feb 11, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation