Yakima County Commissioners looking to use sales tax as a way to help low-income families

Yakima County Commissioners looking to use sales tax as a way to help low-income families.

YAKIMA, Wash.- The Washington State legislature gave Spokane and Yakima County the green light to start a Health, Science and Service Authority in 2010. Fast forward to now and only Spokane has theirs up and running.

That's because Yakima County missed the window to apply and are now urging state law makers to give the county another chance.

The authority would allow Yakima County to withhold about $750,000 of sales tax money, that would otherwise go to the state.

All that money would then be put it into a fund to help people that don't have insurance or might be under-insured.

Because of the lack of coverage, commissioner Ron Anderson said emergency rooms have seen an increase in visits.

“Because they don't have insurance or are under-insured, people tend to go to the emergency room for their care,” he said. “We want to relieve as much as possible from the emergency rooms so they don't have such an overload of visits per day.”

Pacific Northwest University is working with the county commissioners and lobbying in Olympia to make sure Yakima County has the chance to better it's healthcare for those in need.

PNWU President Keith Watson said Yakima County is ranked close to the bottom when it comes to providing healthcare.

“In Yakima County, we rank 33 out of 39 counties for the state of Washington when it comes to health care indicators,” Watson said. “We're really low on that scale.”

The university wouldn't benefit directly from the authority, though Watson said they could potentially apply for funding from it as well.

He said the school is doing this to make sure they stay true to their mission of serving the community.

“We see this as one of the ways we can facilitate better care for the area and fulfill part of our mission to serve rural and underserved populations,” Watson said.

Now it's just a wait and see if the state law makers approve the Health, Science and Service Authority at the end of the current legislative session.

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