On Monday, April 20, WSHA testified at the House Appropriations Committee about the Senate version of the Hospital Safety Net Assessment bill, SSB 6045. We very much appreciate the expert testimony from our members, who were instrumental in helping the committee understand the negative impact of the Senate’s bill:
- Sarah Patterson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Virginia Mason Medical Center;
- Joel Gilbertson, Senior Vice President, Community Partnerships and External Affairs, Providence Health & Services; and
- Scott Bond, CEO, Washington State Hospital Association.
The Senate version of the assessment is a major deviation from the original structure and intent of the program. In order to maintain their “no new tax” commitment and still raise additional revenue to fund state services, the Senate budget increased the assessment rate, took a disproportionate share of funds for state services, and is requiring that hospitals divert some of their benefits to other state health programs. Read more about the Senate version.
As our testifiers explained to the House committee, the assessment is an important tool for improving the support for Medicaid services. WSHA developed the idea of a tax on hospitals to help the state access federal matching funds to support funding for small rural hospitals, urban safety net hospitals, the Medicaid Quality Incentive, and to contribute to the state’s General Fund. It also is needed to help hospitals manage the fact that the vast majority of the newly enrolled in our state are Medicaid patients. The assessment funds help close the gap between what the care costs and what Medicaid pays.
This is a carefully structured tax program, and the House version does a good job of balancing the benefit to hospitals to make the program more sustainable. Unfortunately, the Senate version creates greater inequity between hospitals and threatens hospitals’ support for the assessment.
After the hearing, the House took out the Senate language, replaced it with its own, and passed it with a vote of 81-16. Several legislators who voted against the bill expressed to us that they were not supportive of the Senate version, rather, they were in opposition to the assessment in general.
What Happens Next
The House’s action on Monday was encouraging, but the two houses are still not in agreement on how to handle the assessment. The differences will have to be worked out in budget negotiations.
Call to Action: Please Contact Your Senators and Representatives
First, please, first take a few minutes to thank your House members for supporting the House version of the assessment. Their version of the program is essential to our support of the program.
Second, please let your Senate members know that you have major concerns about their proposal. This would be important for those who voted in support: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Dansel, Ericksen, Fain, Hewitt, Hill, Honeyford, King, Litzow, Miloscia, O’Ban, Padden, Parlette, Pearson, Rivers, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, and Warnick.
In those conversations, let them know that:
- The assessment provides needed support to the general fund and to the hospitals that care for Medicaid patients;
- The Senate version increases the daily tax rate, dramatically increases the state’s share, and takes funding from hospitals and redistributes it to providers who do not pay the tax;
- The Senate version also treats hospitals differently, putting some at a real disadvantage, which the original version of the bill did not do; and
- Washington hospitals do not support this version of the bill.
For more information, contact Claudia Sanders (206-216-2508).
Special Session Begins April 29
Governor Jay Inslee told legislative leaders last week that he will call them into special session on Wednesday, April 29. Inslee will meet with budget negotiators on Monday, April 27.
The regular session was scheduled to be completed on Sunday, April 26. Inslee informed House and Senate leadership of his decision on Thursday, April 23 and issued the formal proclamation on Friday.
From the Governor’s Office: “The operating budget, including an education funding plan that addresses the McCleary decision, is the top priority for the special session. There are court deadlines looming and school districts will soon begin planning for the next school year. Inslee will also ask lawmakers to finish work on a transportation improvement package, a capital construction budget and critical policy legislation.”
Every session, we write letters to the Governor, asking him to sign or veto specific legislation. This year, we are pleased that nearly all of our letters are supporting good policies passed by the Legislature.
See this year’s letters here: