Lawmaker to tell of state success in White House health-care meeting

by Brad Shannon
June 15, 2009
The Olympian

State Sen. Karen Keiser is headed to the Washington, D.C., for the second time in a little over a month. This time she is adding her voice to other state lawmakers calling for health care reform.

The Kent Democrat says she will is joining a group at the White House Wednesday for a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Keiser also is attending a related press event with Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.

The state lawmakers want passage of health care reform by year's end, and they want a public-insurance option.

Business interests in this state are urging a go-slow approach on health care, opposite that of Keiser and Democrats at the state and federal levels.

The American Medical Association has been cool to the public insurance idea, well-aware of the government’s record on Medicare payments. But Obama addressed that topic today in a speech to the powerful doctors group in Chicago, and people like Keiser are hopeful reforms can be done this year.

Keiser said the contingent of state lawmakers at the White House wants to "share our states' successes and perhaps offer some good options for the national health care effort. We’re also going to ask for some consideration as states, so that the federal effort as it is developed and adopted does no harm to what the states are doing — at least for states that are doing things."

As for this state's successes, Keiser pointed to a preferred drug list for state-paid patients, which she figures has saved more than $20 million. "It is one of those evidence based approaches that will actually improve quality," she said.

She also is touting a health efficiencies act she got passed this year and a technology assessment program that saves money by evaluating what is working. The efficiencies act is supposed to save money by requiring insurers to standardize claim forms and credentialing of providers.

The Progressive States Network is paying for the trip and will be giving her an award, Keiser said. The award is for past work including a bill that restored the state insurance commissioner’s authority over insurance rates in the individual health market.