- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A bill signed by Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday ends the 98-year prohibition against opening a medical school at Washington State University.

House Bill 1559, passed in March in the House and Senate by wide margins, eliminates a restriction dating from 1917 that gives the University of Washington in Seattle the exclusive right to operate a public medical school in the state of Washington. Inslee said the increases in state population and in the number of Americans with health insurance makes opening a second medical school a better plan than relying on doctors educated in other states.

“We’ve got 300,000-plus additional folks with insurance,” Inslee said, “and if they don’t have primary care doctors to provide them, it’s going to be disappointing to them.”

Inslee said the state needs to increase its supply of new doctors. The UW medical school admits only 120 Washington medical students each year. The UW currently trains additional medical students in Spokane, through a multistate program it runs. The bill doesn’t appropriate any state money to a new school.

Budget proposals by House Democrats and Senate Republicans each contain different amounts of funding for the new medical school. The House bill calls for spending $8 million on the school, with $2.5 million going toward the accreditation process and the rest toward getting education programs started. The Senate proposal allocates $2.5 million total.

After he signed the bill to enable creating the school, Inslee said he believes an agreement on the cost of setting up the school will be reached during budget negotiations. He said he does not have a number in mind.

“I am relatively confident that we will reach a bipartisan consensus,” Inslee said.

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