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Gov. Gregoire co-hosts White House regional health forum

For Immediate Release: April 6, 2009

LOS ANGELES – Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday joined California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles to help moderate the nation’s fifth White House Regional Forum on Health Reform. President Barack Obama worked with Democratic and Republican governors across the nation to organize these meetings.

The president and governors are gathering input to develop strategies to improve the quality of health care and expand coverage to all Americans, as well as curb health care costs that drain the budgets of families, businesses and local and state governments.

“We can all be proud of the work we have done in Washington state on health care,” Gregoire said. “Now is the time to bring all of our ideas and successes together to inform the national discussion and ensure that everyone in the United States has access to the high-quality, affordable health care they deserve.”

“Health reform cannot be achieved through ideas from Washington alone,” the president said in a video greeting to open the forum. “We are committed to continuing an open, inclusive and transparent process that allows people from around the country to have a voice and direct involvement in our country’s health reform efforts.”

Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, represented the Obama administration. Forum participants included doctors, patients, providers, insurers and health care advocates from both political parties. People were able to participate in the forum by submitting online questions to the panel.

“There is no easy answer to this national health care crisis,” Gregoire said. “I applaud President Obama’s willingness to listen to the ideas of experts and the concerns of those living across the nation. It’s going to take the work of all of us to develop strategies and solutions to ensure everyone receives the best health care available at the best possible price.”

Gregoire has made improving access to health care a top priority of her administration. Under her leadership, 84,000 children have gained access to health care coverage. More than 107,000 Washingtonians have enrolled in the state’s Prescription Drug Discount Card program, saving $6.8 million in prescription drug costs since February 2007.

Gregoire also signed legislation that requires health insurers give patients the same level of coverage for mental health services that is provided for physical conditions.

Today’s forum was the last of five White House Regional Forums on Health Reform. The others were convened in Michigan, Vermont, Iowa and North Carolina.