2021 Legislative Session ends with positive outcomes for health care

April 29, 2021

Washington hospitals are cornerstones of their communities, providing essential health care services and employment opportunities to our state’s residents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. WSHA played an active role in the 2021 Washington State legislative session, advocating on behalf of our members and their patients to ensure hospitals can continue to serve those who depend on them.

The 2021 regular legislative session officially adjourned on Sunday, April 25. We are pleased to report that several of WSHA’s highest priority bills will be on their way to Gov. Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.

WSHA strongly supported SSB 5271 (the standard of care bill), which will provide legal protections for health care providers and facilities on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The liability protections established in the bill recognize the evolving standards of care that have occurred during the pandemic. WSHA worked hard to negotiate this bill given hospitals’ central role in caring for COVID patients during this pandemic. Read more about SSB 5271 from the Feb. 8 Inside Olympia.

ESHB 1196 (concerning audio-only telemedicine) will expand the state’s definition of telemedicine to include audio-only services. It builds on Washington State’s payment parity law by requiring reimbursement for audio-only services at the same amount of compensation that would have been paid if the service were provided in person. WSHA strongly supported this bill, as it will directly impact the ability of providers to offer telemedicine services to patients, expanding health care options for Washington residents who might struggle to access in-person care. Read more from the Jan. 25 Inside Olympia.

On the penultimate day of session, the Legislature unveiled the $59 billion operating budget for the 2021-23 biennial budget. The budget is very positive for hospitals and health care, including funding priorities in public health, the COVID-19 pandemic, behavioral health and a broad array of social programs. WSHA is very pleased our budget requests from the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions for specialty dementia were fully funded, including significant investments to decreasing the challenge with difficult-to-discharge patients. This funding will make a significant different to our state’s ability to care for difficult-to-discharge patients. Read more from the April 24 Inside Olympia.

This is just a highlight of the legislative advocacy WSHA undertook this past session. I  invite you to join us for the 2021 Legislative Summary webcast at 12 p.m. Wednesday, May 12. This webinar will provide you with further analysis of legislative session, including action you will need to take to comply with newly adopted state law. There are several new laws hospitals will need to comply with from the session and WSHA will be providing support to members. To register, please contact Peggy Nimb at peggyn@wsha.org or (206) 216-2552.


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