A large health care reform measure headed to Gov. Chris Gregoire on Saturday, with Democrats saying it sets the state on a path toward lowering costs and Republicans saying it doesn’t do enough to help small businesses.
The state Senate passed the measure 31-17 Saturday, after the House had passed it 63-35 Friday night.
The bill, based on recommendations of the governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access, “will take Washington state forward to be a national leader on health care policy,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, who chairs the Senate Health and Long-term Care Committee.
Gregoire requested the measure and is expected to sign it.
“Today the Legislature took a step toward higher-quality, more affordable care for more Washingtonians,” Gregoire said in a statement. “We cannot just keep throwing more money into a broken health care system – we actually need to fix that system.”
“This means we need to pay for care that we know works, focus on prevention, better manage chronic illnesses, help patients get more involved in their health care and build a more efficient system,” the statement said.
Among other things, the measure directs state-run health programs to provide incentives for medical providers who use procedures that are cost-effective and have been proved to work.
Under the bill, all insurance carriers and state employee programs must offer enrollees an opportunity to extend coverage for unmarried children up to age 25.
The measure also directs state agencies to develop health promotion programs for employees, allows medical providers to access the University of Washington Health Science Library online, and encourages the use of electronic medical records, which supporters say will improve safety and lower costs.
It also directs state agencies to find better ways to care for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Republicans were upset the measure did not include provisions to help reduce insurance costs for small-business owners.
Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, said the bill was a “missed opportunity.”
“This bill is not bold. It expands coverage without being able to sustain it,” she said. “The bill does not reduce costs or improve access.”