Cantwell urges improved health insurance options for Washington

SEATTLE (AP) — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell wants Washington state to bring back the Basic Health Plan, which provided an inexpensive health insurance option for the working poor.

The new federal program is modeled after a Washington plan that started in 1987 but suspended in 2014 with the start of provisions of federal health care reform.

Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott were in Washington on Monday advocating for the state to adopt the affordable insurance program again. Cantwell says it could help about 162,000 people, who earn between $16,242 and $23,540.

The new health insurance option allows states to use some money from the federal government to negotiate directly with insurance companies on behalf of low income residents. Many people who would qualify make too much for Medicaid but say they don't earn enough to afford the premiums for regular health insurance.

So far, only New York and Minnesota have adopted the new program.