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Spokane's Marshallese Greet, Thank Governor Inslee

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Members of Spokane’s Marshallese community welcomed Governor Jay Inslee on Friday to a celebration in a northeast Spokane park. The occasion was to thank him for signing a bill that provides subsidized health insurance to low income Pacific Islanders.

Governor Inslee and his wife Trudi arrived to music from the Marshall Islands. They shook hands with Marshallese people who greeted them in a reception line as they worked toward a small pavilion in Hillyard's Harmon Park. Lobo Jacob, the president of the Spokane Marshallese community, gave an official welcome in his native language.

“On behalf of all the Marshallese community here in Spokane, thank you, Governor Inslee, for supporting the health care bill. We are really blessed and thank you so much,” said translator Doresty Daniel.

The new law allows low-income Washington residents from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau to qualify for subsidized care through Medicaid. Those nations allowed the U.S. to test nuclear weapons near their homelands. In exchange, their people are allowed to move to and live in the States. But, until this new law, the poorest among them have not been allowed to qualify for Medicaid. That, even though many have symptoms of illnesses related to exposure to radiation.

Inslee joked that he and his wife — who live on Bainbridge Island — consider themselves honorary residents of the Marshall Islands. He praised a group of Marshallese children sitting nearby.

“We know that, at long last, their parents and their grandparents will assuredly have access to health care in the state of Washington,” Inslee said.

The state estimates six to eight thousand Pacific Islanders will qualify for premium assistance, including several hundred Marshallese in Spokane. The details for when they’ll be able to begin purchasing health insurance are still being worked out.


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