Jack Knox (1924 – 2017) and his Impact on California’s Health Care System

We note with sadness the death on April 4 of former Assemblymember John T. Knox at age 92. In 1975, then Assemblymember Jack Knox along with then Assemblymember Barry Keene co-authored the Knox-Keene Act, which began as the regulatory framework for HMOs and now serves as the basis for regulating 95% of health coverage in California.

Those of us who work in health policy in California talk every day about how the Knox-Keene Act does this or that. The underlying law provided consumer protections that consumers in many other states still lack: the right to timely access to care; the assurance that medically necessary care will be provided; the guarantee that if you need the care, even if the type of specialist is not in the network, you will get the care you need at an in-network cost-sharing price.

Twenty years after the enactment of the Knox-Keene Act, Health Access led the fight for the HMO Patient Bill of Rights by calling on HMOs to meet the promises of the Knox-Keene Act. We continue that work to this day.

Living to the age of 92 meant Jack Knox’s life had several chapters: first as a member of the California Assembly under several Speakers, including the redoubtable Jess Unruh; second as a lobbyist at the Nossaman firm; and then later continuing his long time avocations as a theatergoer and connoisseur.

Few of us who do this work had the privilege to know Jack Knox in person. Luckily, I did when I worked on the 1980 campaign to elect his successor, Bob Campbell (who also served many years in the Assembly before term limits). Jack was a loyal friend and a leader in the Democratic party. He loved Point Richmond and Richmond, CA, a place much in need of love and political leadership which he helped to provide.  We note his passing with sadness but also recognition of a long life well-lived.