Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Weekly News Conference: New Patient Safety Proposal
December 18, 2003

Good morning, and thanks for coming. With me this morning are:
· State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler
· Speaker of the House Frank Chopp
· Senate Democratic Leader Lisa Brown
· And Representative Patricia Lantz.

Caring for patients is the paramount duty for doctors. We rely on our medical community to be there for us. They provide the care we need when we are sick, when we need of emergency medical attention, or when we bring a new life into the world.

But skyrocketing medical liability insurance premiums are putting financial pressures on many of our doctors in Washington. This threatens our access to vital services, such as obstetrics and surgery.

That’s why we are introducing a proposal today designed to help improve the safety of medical patients and control the cost of medical malpractice insurance.

Our Medical Malpractice Reform Package has three main elements:
1) Increasing patient safety;
2) Stabilizing insurance for doctors; and
3) Reforming our civil justice system while protecting the constitutional rights of patients.

This proposal will help make sure our health care providers can continue to serve Washington citizens.

I’d like to emphasize some key priorities as we try to attack this problem:

Included in the proposal is a 29 percent Medicaid reimbursement rate increase for obstetricians and family practitioners that deliver babies, to help pay their malpractice premiums and other increasing costs.

By helping these doctors, we will ensure that these critical delivery services remain available across the state.

The rate increase would permit the state to:
· Claim federal matching funds,
· Target assistance to doctors that serve the most Medicaid clients, and
· Benefit rural providers, who are more dependent on Medicaid revenues.

These steps will increase access to care among low-income families because too many doctors are beginning to limit the number of low-income patients they serve.

Our proposal allows hospitals and medical groups to share quality improvement techniques and “lessons learned.” This will give health professionals the opportunity to learn from each other the best ways to protect their patients.

It will establish a Patients Compensation Fund. This fund would cover excessive malpractice award costs for health professionals, while ensuring that people with significant medical injuries receive compensation for their losses. The proposal would also direct the state to fully investigate physicians with excessive malpractice judgments or settlements.

We need to do our best to protect our medical patients. We need to help people receive the medical attention that they need – that we all need – when we need it. We need to make sure our medical community is there to provide care. And we need to start now.

I am looking forward to working jointly with Commissioner Kreidler and the House and Senate on this proposal. We are open to working with the medical community to improve this legislation. We will work together to find the best way to control the cost of malpractice insurance and ultimately improve patient care.

Thank you.

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