Contact Information

  • Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

  • Alt Contact:  Melinda McCrady, House Democratic Caucus, 360-786-7385; Johan Hellman, Senate Democratic Caucus, 360-786-7333

Gov. Christine Gregoire introduces health-care and prescription drug legislation, postpones Medicaid premiums for children

For Immediate Release: January 19, 2005

Gov. Christine Gregoire today introduced a package of executive request legislation related to health care and prescription drugs during a news conference in Olympia.

Gregoire also directed the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to return to 12-month eligibility review cycles to keep more than 19,000 children on health coverage and postponed collecting monthly premiums from most low-income parents of children whose health care is provided through Medicaid.

“As government leaders today, it is imperative that we address the health-care and prescription drug crisis facing our citizens – from our children to our senior citizens,” Gregoire said. “This is a national problem that begs for a national solution; we can’t truly solve this problem at the state level, but we can make a difference.”

Gregoire’s executive request legislation for Washington residents include:

  • Private Participation in Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) Programs – This legislation would allow private employers to purchase health insurance benefits for themselves and their employees and families through the programs administered through the state;

  • Importation of Prescription Drugs from Canadian Wholesalers – This bill will direct the state Board of Pharmacy to submit a waiver request to the federal Food and Drug Administration to authorize the state of Washington to license Canadian prescription drug wholesalers;

  • Prescription Drug Purchasing Consortium – This bill is intended to help make prescription drugs more affordable and would authorize the Health Care Authority to adopt policies necessary to establish a prescription drug-purchasing consortium. The consortium would build on the evidence-based prescription drug program and its preferred drug list; and

  • Long-term Care Task Force – This proposal would create a long-term care task force to develop recommendations on public and private mechanisms for financing long-term care, particularly in rural communities, and providing disability prevention interventions and chronic-care management that can reduce need for long-term care.

Joining Gregoire were:

  • Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle), chair of the House Health Care Committee;
  • Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent), chair of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee;
  • Rep. Shay Schual-Berke (D-Normandy Park);
  • Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island);
  • Rep. Dawn Morrell (D-Puyallup);
  • Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo);
  • Rep. Geoff Simpson (D-Covington);
  • Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee);
  • Doug Shadel, state director for AARP;
  • Bruce Reeves, president of the Washington State Senior Citizen’s Lobby;
  • Dr. Jeffrey Huebner, co-chair of the Legislative Committee for the Washington Academy of Family Physicians;
  • Rick Bender, president of the Washington State Labor Council;
  • Shawn Cantrell, executive director for Washington Citizen Action;
  • Lonnie Johns-Brown of the Washington Chapter of the National Organization for Women;
  • Diane Sosne of SEIU Local 1199 Northwest;
  • David Rolf of SEIU Local 775; and
  • Kevin Glackin-Coley of Advocacy and Legislative Relations, Children’s Alliance.

“Health care access and affordability is vital to the well-being of our state,” said Rep. Cody. “The rising cost of medical care is the biggest driver of our budget shortfall as well as a major roadblock for small businesses wanting to provide their employees with health insurance. I appreciate the urgency Governor Gregoire is bringing to these issues.”

“I want to congratulate Governor Gregoire for coming forward with a strong health-care agenda,” said Sen. Keiser. “At a time when nearly everyone in Washington is affected by soaring health-care costs, we need strong leadership on health care. We need to help small businesses that are trying to do the right thing by providing health care for their employees. We need to continue our efforts to make prescription drugs more affordable and we need to make sure kids get coverage. This is a good start on real change.”

Based on an AARP survey of Washington voters on prescription drugs, 91 percent of Washington voters think it is important for the state to make prescription drugs more affordable. Eight in 10 of all Washington voters support the state creating a prescription drug purchasing pool to negotiate with drug companies for lower drug prices.

The survey also found that significant numbers of consumers are being forced to make difficult decisions in the face of mounting prescription drug bills. Twenty-four percent of those consumers surveyed are skipping doses; 16 percent cut back on items such as food, fuel or electricity; 31 percent delay in getting prescriptions filled; and 25 percent don’t even fill their prescriptions at all.

“As prescription drug costs spiral upward, many consumers are skipping doses, not filling prescriptions and splitting pills to save money,” said Shadel. “We cannot allow Washington seniors to gamble with their health because drugs cost too much. Fortunately, there is something we can do.”

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