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Washington Rejects HMO Choices

November 5, 1997

SEATTLE (AP) _ Washington voters Tuesday rejected a move to let managed-care patients choose doctors outside their insurance plan, and refused to let dental hygienists strike out on their own.

With 10 percent of precincts reporting, the managed-care initiative was failing 67 percent to 33 percent.

The initiative would have forced managed-care companies to let patients use any doctor they wished if they doctor provided services covered under the plan. The measure also expanded the definition of who is a doctor, allowing patients to use nurse practitioners, chiropractors and naturopaths who are known for using herbal remedies.

Managed-care companies fought the measure, saying they needed to limit choices to hold down costs. Backers, largely chiropractors, said an unfettered choice of health care providers is a basic right of health-care consumers.

Also losing in early returns 53 percent to 47 percent was an initiative that would have permitted trained dental hygienists, who primarily clean teeth, to ply their trade independent of dentists. Opponents, mostly dentists, said dental health would suffer.

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