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GARDNER HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL TAKES AIM AT CONTROLLING SKYROCKETING COSTS

 GARDNER HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL TAKES AIM
 AT CONTROLLING SKYROCKETING COSTS
 OLYMPIA, Wash., Dec. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Gov. Booth Gardner unveiled a comprehensive bill today that would reform the state's health care system through controlling costs and offering affordable health care to all state residents.
 The legislation will save Washington from the "fiscal and moral disaster of the status quo," Gardner said, "in which 550,000 state residents are uninsured and many who are seeing health care taking a bigger bite out of their wallets."
 Gardner explained that Washington can no longer afford skyrocketing medical costs fueled by inefficient administration, expenditures on unnecessary services and equipment, and a lack of preventive care for the growing number of uninsured people.
 "Without reforms, only the rich are going to be able to enjoy the services that are now available to middle-income Americans," said Gardner. "Washington state is not the kind of place where we're going to let people suffer because they can't afford to see a doctor."
 Gardner noted that the state is paying $857 million more for health benefits in this biennium; that is projected to soar to an increase of more than $1 billion in the next biennium. Those are funds that won't be available for K-12 and higher education, environmental programs and social services, he said.
 "The insatiable monster of health care inflation is eating up valuable dollars that could be going into our schools," he said.
 Tinkering with health care will not be enough, said Gardner. Policy-makers have tried to cover more of the uninsured control costs and advocate managed care, yet the problem continues to grow worse.
 "We've stretched and mended the safety net, but more than half a million people, mostly workers with children, are still falling through," Gardner added.
 The governor's bill aims to stem that increase through a reformed system that will be affordable and accessible to all state residents and will emphasize preventive care.
 Gardner described his proposal as a "system that creates market incentives to do what's right, a system that is grounded in the private sector, and a system in which decisions are made in a rational, open and democratic manner."
 The proposal encourages preventive health care to reverse the current predicament faced by the uninsured, who delay seeking medical treatment until more expensive emergency care is required.
 "The current system only encourages fear, frustration, anger and confusion among both the uninsured and those who see their medical benefits eroding year by year," Gardner said.
 The governor's four-point legislation covers insurance reform, cost containment, expansion of the state's Basic Health Plan and a "pay or play" system involving all employers. It closely follows the recommendations in the recent report by the state Health Care Commission.
 The elements of the bill include:
 COST CONTAINMENT A five-member Health Services Commission would hold down medical costs by designing a uniform package of benefits and services available to all state residents and offered through a variety of competing health plans. The commission would also set a maximum cost for the benefits package. The cost of the package would be controlled by rolling adjustments back 2 percent annually in 1993 and 1994 and then capping medical inflation to keep it in line with personal income growth. It would also regulate administrative costs and practices, reduce inappropriate medical services and regulate capital projects and new technology.
 INSURANCE REFORM The bill will end underwriting and guarantee availability of insurance regardless of employment status or pre- existing conditions. Insurance premiums would be based on an average of actual or anticipated services provided by each health care plan.
 "PAY OR PLAY" SYSTEM FOR EMPLOYERS The system, phased in over four years, requires employers to either offer health insurance or pay into the state Basic Health Plan for each employee and their dependents.
 BASIC HEALTH PLAN EXPANSION The expansion will allow employers, especially small businesses, to provide health care to their employees by buying into the Basic Health Plan. The expansion also allows subsidized coverage for the state's low-income residents.
 -0- 12/17/91
 /CONTACT: Sheryl Hutchison of the Washington State Governor's Office, 206-753-6790/ CO: Washington State Governor's Office ST: Washington IN: SU:


JH-TB -- SE006 -- 3007 12/17/91 14:05 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Dec 17, 1991
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