Governor Gregoire Introduces “Healthy Washington Initiative”

For Immediate Release: February 6, 2007

Proposed legislation builds on recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care to improve quality, address costs and increase access to care

OLYMPIA – Governor Chris Gregoire today introduced the “Healthy Washington Initiative,” a comprehensive health care bill that makes strategic investments to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access.

“Washingtonians know that access, quality and cost go hand-in-hand and they are ready for us to move forward and take a comprehensive approach to health care,” said Governor Gregoire. “Quality, affordable health care is a right, not a privilege, and the Healthy Washington Initiative will make changes that bring us another step closer to serving all Washingtonians.”

Governor Gregoire’s proposed health care legislation takes a number of steps to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission to improve quality, address costs and increase access to care, such as:

  • Extending Coverage to Young Adults
    Young adults aged 19 to 25 make up nearly 29.8% of the uninsured in Washington. Many of them become ineligible for coverage through their parents, are just beginning their careers and may not be able to afford or have access to health coverage through their employer. Governor Gregoire’s “Healthy Washington Initiative” requires insurance companies to address this gap in coverage and extend eligibility to unmarried children under the age of 25, by either continuing to allow the employer to contribute to the cost of coverage or allowing the employee to pay the cost in full;
  • Health Coverage Portability
    Washington has the second highest number of temporary employees of any state and is among the top ten states in the number of on-call workers and day laborers. Many of those workers, when they move to a new job, leave their health insurance behind. The “Healthy Washington Initiative” directs the Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) to design a connector as a statewide public-private partnership through which health insurance can be bought and sold; and
  • Reducing Emergency Room Visits
    In 2005, there were nearly 2.3 million emergency room visits to hospitals in Washington. Many of these visits are a result of poor preventive care or are children who do not have coverage but may be eligible for Washington’s childrens health care programs. The “Healthy Washington Initiative” directs the HCA to provide grants to those community health centers that work with local hospitals to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits. It tracks these types of visits and asks the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and the HCA to work with local providers to design a demonstration project that will reduce these unnecessary visits.

“This bill is the first step to move us from the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission to results that are meaningful to Washingtonians,” said Governor Gregoire.

Other measures included in the “Healthy Washington Initiative:”

  • Establishes the Washington Quality Forum to address why patients receive different kinds of treatment depending on where they live;
  • Implements a health information technology system so that our medical records are available from anywhere in the state in a safe and secure way;
  • Directs Washington state agencies to change the way they pay for health care by paying only for care that improves health;
  • Expands chronic care management programs to better serve the five percent of patients who drive 50 percent of the costs;
  • Directs the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to look closely into high administrative costs and what can be done about them;
  • Directs the state to design and model a reinsurance program that would cover high-cost claims so that we can keep health insurance more affordable; and
  • Makes the best use of existing state program by directing DSHS to look for ways to partner with the federal government to expand coverage in Medicaid and in the Basic Health Program.