Wednesday, March 8 was the cutoff for bills to be voted out of their house of origin and move to the opposite house for consideration. There are a number of important bills still alive that WSHA both supports and opposes, including bills related to nurse staffing requirements, duty to warn, balance billing and flexibility in physician contracts.
Nurse staffing requirements
The two bills concerning nurse staffing requirements (HB 1714 and HB 1715) have passed the House and moved to the Senate. Safe staffing is a crucial component of patient safety, but mandating stringent meal and rest break requirements or limiting the use of pre-scheduled on call does not improve patient care or outcomes and could compromise access.
HB 1714 originally required staffing ratios, but has been amended to make changes to the existing law on nurse staffing committees. WSHA and the nursing unions are working to find a reasonable compromise on bill language but are not yet in alignment. The bill passed the House by a vote of 61-36. It will now be heard before the Senate Health Care Committee.
HB 1715 requires meal and rest breaks be uninterrupted and prohibits health care facilities from using prescheduled on-call. WSHA opposes HB 1715. The bill passed the House by a vote of 55-42, and it will now be heard before the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee. Hearing dates have not yet been set for either bill.
Duty to warn
ESB 5800, which concerns when a provider has a duty to warn potential victims and law enforcement of a dangerous patient’s inclination to cause a serious or imminent threat, passed the Senate by a vote of 33-16 and has moved to the House. WSHA supports this bill, which clarifies ambiguity created by the Supreme Court ruling in Volk v DeMeerleer as to when providers have met their obligation to warn. SB 5800 clarifies that providers must warn potential victims and law enforcement when actual threats are made. The bill also provides immunity protections for providers.
SB 5800 will be heard before the House Judiciary Committee, and no hearing date has been set. (Taya Briley)
HB 2114 (originally HB 1117) is aimed at protecting patients who use an in-network hospital but then receive an additional “balance” bill from an out-of-network provider for care during the stay. WSHA supports protections for patients in emergency situations in which they have no control over who provides their care. In general, we believe the balance billing issue would be best addressed by making sure insurers have robust and adequate networks, so patients can easily receive care with in-network providers.
However, this legislation makes hospitals, but not insurers, responsible for notifying patients. It requires hospitals to notify patients 10 days prior to scheduled procedures to alert them to the possibility of balance bills. The notice must also include additional information such as the names, contacts, and network status for surgical and ancillary providers who will be providing care and a range of cost of services. In addition, hospitals must post to the hospital website the names, mailing addresses and phone numbers of all health care providers with whom the facility contracts to provide services at the hospital.
HB 2114 will be heard before the Senate Health Care Committee. WSHA will be presenting our strong concerns with the transparency requirements. No hearing date has been set. (Andrew Busz)
EHB 1967 as originally drafted, sought to significantly restrict the use of noncompete agreements across all industries. WSHA opposed the original bill because it would not protect the investments hospitals and health systems make when they recruit physicians, making it riskier to bring physicians into our communities. The current version of the bill is a reasonable approach that addresses notice to employer, court reformation, and employers’ use of unenforceable clauses. WSHA is neutral on the bill in its current form. Click here to read more about the original bill from the February 13 Inside Olympia.
EHB 1967 passed the House with a vote of 97-0. It will now be heard before the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee, and no hearing date has been set. (Zosia Stanley)
WSHA is testifying on the following bills this week:
Monday, March 13
Senate Health Care Committee
- HB 1547: Exempting certain hospitals from certificate of need requirements for the addition of psychiatric beds until June 2019.
- HB 1641: Concerning informed consent for nonemergency, outpatient, primary health care services for unaccompanied homeless youth under the federal McKinney-Vento homeless assistance act.
Tuesday, March 14
House Business & Financial Services Committee
- SB 5581: Authorizing public hospital districts to participate in self-insurance risk pools with nonprofit hospitals.
Senate Health Care Committee
- HB 1338: Addressing the Washington state health insurance pool.
Senate Ways and Means
- SB 5118: Safety Net Assessment
Wednesday, March 15
- SB 5659 – LEOFF bill
Senate Ways & Means
- SB 5248 – Concerning persons to whom the department of health may provide prescription monitoring program data.