Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Patient Bill of Rights Rollout
December 13, 1999

Thank you all for being here today. I'd especially like to thank Washington State Insurance Commissioner, Deborah Senn, Representatives Shay Schaul-Berke and Tom Campbell, Senator Lorraine Wojahn, and citizens Jay Ellison and Victoria Doyle for being with us today.

When it comes to health care, two things are crystal clear. The first is that health care costs are spiraling, and we need to do something to control them. The second is that individuals need to be able to make decisions concerning their health care in consultation with their doctors, not insurance companies or accountants or auditors. Doctors are trained in medicine. Accountants are trained in numbers. Insurance agents are trained in statistics. Let's leave the medical decisions to the doctors and the patients!

It's simply unacceptable that medical treatment can be delayed because HMOs and insurance companies question the diagnosis of a doctor. Our bodies are all we have, when it comes down to it. It is frightening to think that we don't have control over how our bodies are cared for.

That's why I am asking the legislature to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights in 2000 to strike a better balance in the tug-of-war between providing quality health care and containing rising health care costs.

Managed care is now the reality for a majority of Americans. I recognize that managed health care systems have a legitimate need to control health care costs. But I believe it's time to bring a better balance to the system; to give consumers what they need.

I'm here to announce my support for a Patients' Bill of Rights. I am calling for the legislature to pass such a bill this session.

I believe consumers should get the health care they are paying for. Consumers must have access to information that lets them make informed choices when they purchase health care. And Health Plans must be held accountable to deliver that care.

Additionally, personal medical information should be private. While Washington already has a strong health information privacy law, we need to ensure that health plans have explicit policies and standards that consumers can rely on. Consumers need to know how to gain access to their medical information and how health plans will use the personal medical information they hold.

Patients must also have the right to choose a doctor they trust.

Health plans simply must have fast and impartial grievance procedures. They must allow for quick independent medical reviews of health care disputes. And medical directors should be medical doctors. Ultimately, health plans should be liable for any negligence in their decisions just as doctors are liable for negligence in their actions.

Last year a Patients' Bill of Rights was proposed, but did not pass the Legislature. This year a bipartisan effort will be made again, and I want to give those efforts my full support.

I want to turn this over to Commissioner Senn who has been working very hard on this and has brought some people with her who are directly effected by the things we are discussing today. Please welcome Commissioner Senn.
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