Tuesday, March 9, marks the next cutoff of session, when all bills must pass through their chamber of origin to continue advancing. Bills still alive will then advance through the opposite chamber. Below is the status of the highest priority bills we have worked on this session. These bills are continuing to move through the process and have passed their chamber of origin and are alive. Next week’s Inside Olympia will recap all of the bills that are still alive.
ESHB 1141: Increasing access to the Death with Dignity Act
WSHA supports ESHB 1141, which removes regulatory burden to accessing Washington State’s Death with Dignity Act. It also maintains the current structure in which hospitals and providers are permitted to opt-in or opt-out of taking part in Death with Dignity by providing notice to providers and patients. At WSHA’s request, the bill further clarifies when providers may participate in the law outside the workplace and scope of employment. The bill reflects current practice that hospitals submit end-of-life policies to DOH. The bill also adds a new requirement that DOH develop a simple form for hospitals to use to show end-of-life services that are and are not provided at the hospital. ESHB 1141 passed the House and now advances to the Senate, where it was referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care. (Zosia Stanley)
SSB 5271: Providing liability protections for health care providers and facilities that recognizes the evolving standards of care during COVID-19
WSHA strongly supports SSB 5271, which provides legal protections for health care providers and facilities on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to report the bill has passed the Senate with unanimous support and now advances to the House. The bill amends the state’s current standard of care law to include additional considerations to reflect the challenging practice environment providers have faced during the declared emergency. These challenges have included evolving and sometimes conflicting guidance from local, state and federal health officials regarding treatment for COVID-19-infected patients, shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies, and the proclamation from the governor on non-urgent procedures that resulted in delayed or missed health screenings and diagnoses. WSHA worked hard to negotiate this bill in advance of the legislative session given hospitals’ central role caring for COVID patients during this pandemic. Read more about SSB 5271 from the Feb. 8 Inside Olympia. (Alicia Eyler)
2SSB 5377: Concerning increasing affordability of standardized plans on the individual market (public option)
WSHA continues to have concerns with 2SSB 5377, which aims to make numerous changes to the public option health plans, which are offered on the Washington health benefit exchange. In the original bill, there were numerous issues that were concerning to hospitals. Those included mandating hospital participation in a public option health plan if it also participated in Medicaid, Public Employees Benefit Board (PEBB) plans or School Employees Benefit Board (SEBB) plans; and reducing the payment rate from 160% to 135% of Medicare in the aggregate.
After opposing the original bill, the reduced payment rate and the market tie was removed. However, there are still issues with the bill that warrant concerns. The most notable is requiring large health systems with four or more hospitals to contract with carriers that seeks to offer a public option health plan in all counties within the geographic rating areas.
While WSHA supports the goal of this bill – to expand access to affordable health care coverage – it does not support eliminating a hospital’s ability to decide which carriers it can contract with. WSHA will continue to advocate for this as the bill moves through the legislative process.
2SSB 5377 passed the Senate and is now on its way to the House. (Shirley Prasad)
2SHB 1148: Expanded regulation of acute care hospitals
WSHA has worked to amend HB 1148, which expands the regulatory and disciplinary authority of the Department of Health (DOH) over acute care hospitals. Last year, WSHA addressed this issue for freestanding psychiatric hospitals. This bill expands this regulatory structure to acute care hospitals. WSHA worked with the DOH to make refinements to the bill as it applies to acute care hospitals. 2SHB 1148 passed the House and moves to the Senate, where it was referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care. Read more about 2SHB 1148 from the Jan. 19 Inside Olympia. (Shirley Prasad)
SHB 1160: Concerning health provider contracts
WSHA opposes House Bill 1160, which places significant restrictions on how hospitals contract with insurance carriers. WSHA testified before the House Health Care and Wellness and Appropriations committees that the bill could cause unintended issues with access and quality of care if carriers choose to contract with hospitals in a fragmented manner. The bill was somewhat improved via a floor amendment before it was passed by the full House last Friday, though we still have significant concerns. (Andrew Busz)
ESHB 1196 Concerning audio-only telemedicine
WSHA strongly supports ESHB 1196 which adds audio-only telephone visits to the definition of telemedicine for payment purposes. The bill passed the House 94-3 and has been referred to the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee. The only change to the bill is the removal of hospitals from the list of facilities eligible to charge a facility fee when the patient is in the hospital and connecting with a provider through audio services. Read more from the Jan. 25 Inside Olympia. (David Streeter)
E2SHB 1272 Concerning health system transparency
E2SHB 1272 relates to increased reporting by hospitals on financial data, patient data and community benefit. WSHA has been advocating strongly on the bill and is pleased the requirement to collect intrusive patient income, occupation and education data was removed, as was a requirement to report “critical staffing” information monthly. E2SHB 1272 passed the House and now advances to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care. Read more from the Feb. 1 Inside Olympia. (Zosia Stanley)
HB 1316 Concerning the hospital safety net assessment
WSHA strongly supports HB 1316, which extends the expiration date for the Hospital Safety Net Assessment program through the end of fiscal year 2025. The program is scheduled to sunset June 2023 and the extension was needed for purposes of the state’s four-year budget outlook. The bill passed the House Committee on Appropriations and is currently in Rules. (Andrew Busz)
ESSB 5115: Establishing health emergency labor standards
WSHA negotiated to improve ESSB 5115, which is the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act. This legislation was narrowed to apply only during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bill is primarily focused on “frontline employees,” which includes health care workers. ESSB 5115 passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support in a vote of 48-1 and has been referred to the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards. Read more from the Jan. 19 Inside Olympia. (Alicia Eyler)
SSB 5140: Miscarriage management
WSHA opposes SSB 5140, which establishes a private cause of action pertaining to miscarriage management and care for ectopic pregnancies. SSB 5140 passed the Senate and has been referred to the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness. Read more from the Jan. 19 Inside Olympia. (Zosia Stanley)
ESSB 5190: Providing health care workers with presumptive benefits during a public health emergency
WSHA has concerns and is seeking amendments to ESSB 5190. The bill would create a presumption of occupational disease for workers’ compensation for health care workers and provides a pathway for health care workers to voluntarily quit and receive benefits under unemployment insurance when they leave work to enter quarantine or contract the disease that is the subject of a declared public health emergency. ESSB 5190 passed the Senate and has been referred to the House, where it has been referred to the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards. Read more in the Jan. 25 Inside Olympia. (Alicia Eyler)
SSB 5236: Extending Certificate of Need exemptions
WSHA strongly supports SSB 5236, which would extend the current exemption of Certificate of Need laws for psychiatric hospitals for an additional 2 years. It will also now allow for freestanding psychiatric hospitals a one-time addition of up to 30 long-term psychiatric beds, in addition to a one-time addition of up to 30 beds for all other types of psychiatric beds. SSB 5236 passed the Senate and has been referred to the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness. Read more from the Jan. 25 Inside Olympia. (Shirley Prasad)