King County Council Members Support Executive Order on COVID-19

June 19, 2020

Dear Governor Inslee:

Subject: Ending COVID-19 medical bankruptcy for the underinsured and uninsured in Washington

Thank you for your leadership during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Your early actions for social distancing have saved countless lives.

As members of the King County Council, we are writing to encourage you to sign an executive order to guarantee Washington state will pay any COVID-19 related medical bills for any underinsured or uninsured Washingtonian who do not receive federal assistance from the CARES Actso they will not face possible bankruptcy for seeking medical treatment related to COVID-19.

Even before the pandemic, 500,000 people in our state lacked health insurance coverage, and 40 percent of people were covered under private plans. The Washington Office of Financial Management is already reporting an additional 328,000 newly unemployed losing their healthcare, and minorities are more likely not to have healthcare. The OFM noted King County is seeing a nearly a 100 percent increase of people losing healthcare since April. People needing access to paid healthcare becomes paramount during a pandemic from a public health perspective and a person’s long-term financial security.

It is well-recognized that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US is unexpected bills due to a medical crisis. Most Americans do not have even $500 in emergency reserves to cover an unexpected medical expense. As a country we stand alone in the world where someone could face financial ruin for contracting COVID-19. While you have committed to free testing, we feel this action does not go far enough to protect businesses and the working people of Washington financially over the long-term. Washington needs to act because: the allocation of federal money paying for COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured does not cover the underinsured; the state should utilize its relief funds if the federal CARES allocation falls short; develop a mechanism to enforce the no balance billing protection of CARES and plan to effectively communicate free testing and COVID-19 care to Washington residents.

TIME and The Washington Post have recently published stories on individuals who fear seeking COVID-19 treatment for fear of financial ruin. The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world where this fear exists.

As reopening of business activity begins, business owners and workers returning to work need the health and safety security of knowing all people in Washington can seek medical attention for COVID-19. This will also give added confidence to public interactions for economic activity. You can ensure this by signing an executive order guaranteeing Washington state will pay the medical bills for those who are underinsured or uninsured.


Rod Dembowski
King County Council, District 1

Jeanne Kohl-Welles
King County Council, District 4

Joe McDermott
King County Council, District 8

Dave Upthegrove
King County Council, District 5

Girmay Zahilay
King County Council, District 2

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