Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) is expected to sign a bill that would expand health insurance coverage and reduce health care costs in the state, the AP/Takoma News Tribune reports. The state House on Friday voted 63-35 to approve the bill, and the Senate on Saturday voted 31-17 in favor of the measure (Byrd, AP/Takoma News Tribune, 4/22). The legislation — based on 16 recommendations from the governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access — would:
* Encourage health care practices that have been proven effective;
* Launch health promotion programs for state employees;
* Allow online access to the University of Washington Health Science Library; and
* Encourage the use of electronic health records to improve safety, lower costs and promote better care of patients with chronic health conditions.
The legislation also would create a pilot program to modify the current small-business insurance pool and rename it the “Health Insurance Partnership.” The program would be based on the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, which was created by the Massachusetts health insurance law. If successful, the program could evolve into a larger pool, in which the state would negotiate lower health insurance rates (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 4/16). In addition, the measure would require all insurers and state employee programs to offer coverage to plan members’ children who are younger than age 26 and unmarried. Republicans criticized the measure as not doing enough to reduce health insurance costs for small-business owners