Monday, Feb. 15 marked the first cutoff of session, when a policy bill must have passed through its committee of origin (except for fiscal committees) to still be considered alive. WSHA has been busy at work advocating for patients and hospitals. While we still have several weeks left in this session, we are pleased to report that many important bills are still alive and many harmful bills are no longer moving forward.
We are excited that the continuing legislation includes SHB 1196, which concerns increasing access to health care services through audio-only telemedicine. The state’s current definition of telemedicine specifically excludes audio-only services. This can preclude our rural communities, senior citizens and low-income patients from accessing the care they need if they only have audio communication capabilities, making this a matter of health equity. WSHA strongly supports this version of the bill.
Unfortunately, legislation has died that would have entered Washington into the Nurse Licensure Compact. The Compact is a network of 34 states that allows nurses to obtain a multistate license to practice in any participating state. Joining the Compact would help Washington mitigate our state’s nursing shortage by allowing nurses to more quickly begin practicing when they arrive in our state. It would also be beneficial for nurses in border communities and for military families that relocate frequently. The Seattle Times Editorial Board published a comprehensive article on the Compact with further details. WSHA plans to continue advocating for the Compact in future years.
WSHA is continuing to negotiate on several other bills, including liability protections for providers and facilities (SSB 5271) and behavioral health bills to ensure patients are supported and hospitals can continue to deliver important services. Subscribe to WSHA’s legislative newsletter, Inside Olympia, to stay up-to-date with legislative news. Legislative updates are also available online.