Governor Inslee released his proposed budget for the next biennium on Wednesday afternoon. The big news is that it includes $4.4 billion in new revenue, allowing for significant spending increases in education, behavioral health services and salary increases for state employees.
Mental health is our top priority in the legislature, and we greatly appreciate the governor’s focus on improving the behavioral health system. WSHA supports the governor’s proposed additional funding for mental health, which helps patients who need to be discharged from Eastern and Western State hospitals, provides funding to address the opioid crisis and opens the doors to more community-based facilities.
However, we strongly oppose large Medicaid cuts to hospital-owned clinics (also known as hospital outpatient departments) that the governor proposes. These clinics have different payment rates because their services are different from free-standing primary and specialty clinics. These cuts would have a disproportionate impact on low-income patients, who will likely find it difficult to find other clinics who accept Medicaid patients. These clinics are also more likely to take on complex patients, and are better able to serve them because they are integrated into the larger hospital. In many communities, the hospital and its clinics are the main — or only — provider of primary and specialty care. Ironically, these cuts will greatly curtail Washingtonians’ access to the outpatient mental health care they need to prevent the crisis services the governor funds.
We have sent out our first Inside Olympia of the year with more details about the budget’s impact on hospitals and health care. We encourage you to read it, to subscribe to it and to stay in touch with your legislators. It’s going to be a busy session and we want to make sure you’re informed!
WSHA Executive Vice President and incoming President and CEO