Washington State Initiative Would Place Choice in Patients' Hands

By Editorial Staff
MILL CREEK, Washington -- The Coalition for Patient Choice, an alliance of health care providers and patients in Washington state, is gathering signatures for Initiative 192, which has the potential to serve as a model for patient choice legislation nationwide. The initiative proposes that patients be allowed to choose their own doctor for their health care needs and keep their current doctor when they change health insurance plans.

The initiative has a simple title: "Shall every health insurance plan be required to cover the services of all licensed podiatrists, chiropractors, naturopaths, optometrists, osteopaths, pharmacists, physicians, and psychologists?" Petition organizers must obtain at least 180,000 valid signatures of registered Washington state voters to place the measure before the state legislature in January 1997.

A similar initiative (Measure 39) was on the November ballot in Oregon. (See DC's Nov. 4, 1996 article, "Oregon to Vote on Freedom to Choose Providers.") At press time, the November elections have not yet taken place.

Initiative 192 would require any health insurance plan issued or renewed in Washington state after July 1, 1998, to cover the services of the above designated health care providers, if those services are within the scope of the provider's license.

It would also permit insurance plans to continue to use the full range of managed care practices to contain costs by requiring that services be covered only if the provider agrees to general standards of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Insurance plans could include patient cost-sharing, gatekeeper or referral requirements only if they are used to ensure efficient delivery of services.

The initiative also stipulates that "such requirements or provisions may not discriminate unfairly against any category of provider included in the plan, and must be written and applied on a substantially fair and uniform basis among all health care providers" in the plan.

"Initiative 192 makes sense because it gives people, not insurance companies, the right to choose their own doctor," said David Butters, DC, a Seattle chiropractor and board member of the Coalition for Patient Choice. "If it becomes law, it will serve as a national model of patient choice legislation for other states."

Once the initiative is introduced in the legislature, lawmakers must pass it as written. If they fail to do so, the initiative automatically will be placed before voters on the November 1997 general election ballot.

People with Internet access can obtain more information by visiting the Initiative 192 home page at: http://www.speakeasy.org/initiative192.

You may contact the Coalition for Patient Choice at:

Coalition for Patient Choice
P.O. Box 13280
Mill Creek, WA 98082
(800) 906-4406
(206) 775-8720

Page printed from: