In a move that would capitalize on provisions under President Barack Obama's health care law but could cost the federal government millions of dollars, Washington state lawmakers have found a creative way to pass a large chunk of their health-care expenses along to Washington, D.C.—and analysts say others are likely to follow suit.
The plan threatens to affect the federal budget and the pocketbooks of some part-time workers, as it would push a group of employees out of their current health-care plans and into an exchange developed under the Affordable Care Act.
Observers say the shift seems to run counter to the intent of the new health-care law. Supporters, however, say it's a viable strategy for governments to pursue as they manage the insurance rules related to part-time staff.
Washington state appears to be the first major government to seriously explore the possibility of pushing workers into the exchange—but it probably won't be the last. Rick Johnson, who advises state and local governments on health care policy at the New York-based consulting firm Segal Company, said he expects it will be an option some governments will look at in the years to come.
"I can see that as one of the solutions out there," Johnson said.
A spokeswoman with the Department of Health and Human Services declined comment, and it's unclear whether the federal government accounted for this possible outcome.