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Thursday, April 12, 2007 - Page updated at 03:12 p.m.
By Seattle Times staff and wire
OLYMPIA — The state House on Thursday passed a vast health-care reform measure championed by Gov. Christine Gregoire that supporters say will improve Washington's system but opponents say does nothing to help small businesses and families.
The measure was approved 61-34. Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, chairwoman of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, said she expects the Senate to sign off on the changes and that it will go to the governor for her signature.
Gregoire's health-care adviser, Christina Hulet, said the governor supports the House version of the bill.
The measure is based on the 16 recommendations made by the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access.
"When it comes to health care, we have not found the silver bullet that will solve all of our problems," Cody said. "With this bill what we've done is take a bunch of little steps."
Among other things, the bill requires health plans to allow parents to cover unmarried dependent children up to age 25. It also makes benefits changes to the state's high-risk insurance pool and directs the Department of Health to set up a Web-based program to track prescriptions for controlled substances.
Republicans were upset that a series of measures to allow insurers to sell health policies that don't include state-mandated benefits was taken out of the Senate version of the bill, which passed unanimously earlier this session. Women's advocates were among the groups who opposed such mandate-free health plans, contending that they would eliminate coverage for mastectomies, reconstructive breast surgery and other services.
"This doesn't provide a single benefit to small businesses and families," said Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, ranking member of the House Health Care Committee. "I think it's too bad; it's a missed opportunity."
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