Inside Olympia: Creating a public option health insurance plan, establishing a system for setting rates for health care services and more

February 21, 2019

HB 1523/SB 5526: Creating a public option health insurance plan

HB 1523/SB 5556 would allow health insurance carriers to offer Washingtonians the option to purchase lower-costing health insurance coverage on the Health Benefit Exchange (the individual market). WSHA supports expanding access to health care coverage, but we have concerns with this bill. The payment rate to providers and hospitals for these plans would be no higher than the payment rate for Medicare, which is less than the cost of care.

SB 5526 will be heard on Monday, Feb. 18 in the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care. Read more in the Jan. 28 edition of Inside Olympia. (Shirley Prasad)

HB 1693: Establishing a system for setting rates for health care services

WSHA strongly opposes HB 1693, which would subject any hospitals or health systems that engage in a merger, acquisition or contract affiliation to a review of costs and reimbursement rates by a rate-setting commission. This bill would discourage relationships between health care entities that preserve and expand access to important health care services in our communities. In the most serious cases, barriers to these types of relationships could cause independent clinics to close, leaving communities without access to vital services. Further, the ability of health care entities to partner or join can create greater continuity for patients across the health care continuum.

HB 1693 will be heard Wednesday, Feb. 20 in the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness. (Zosia Stanley)

HB 2046: Increasing consumer data transparency

HB 2046 would require hospitals to inform patients of each agreement and transaction involving the “monetizing” of a person’s data, as well as make copies of the agreements themselves available to patients. The threshold for providing this notice and the agreements themselves appears very broad, and would capture agreements beyond those relating to the sale of data. WSHA supports increasing people’s understanding of the use of their personal data, but we need to ensure that state law does not create competing compliance obligations or add burdensome requirements over and above the high standards hospitals already meet as “covered entities” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), among other state and federal privacy laws and regulations.  (Jaclyn Greenberg)

HB 1135: Concerning actions for wrongful injury or death

This bill would expand existing law on who may sue when a loved one dies because of the act of another (“wrongful death”), and what types of damages they may recover. WSHA is very concerned about, and opposes, broadly expanding the basis for recovery and the categories of damages that may be recovered beyond the residency requirements.  Under Washington law, hospitals face exposure for the entire cost of a wrongful death award, even if they are only found to be one-percent at fault. This may spike premiums for liability insurance, and in turn, could make it more difficult for hospitals to provide patients access to services, particularly in more rural areas. (Jaclyn Greenberg)

Feb. 22 is first cutoff

Friday, Feb. 22 is the cutoff for most bills to move out of their original policy committee. Bills that have not moved out of their committee are most likely not moving forward this session, but nothing can really be counted out until session is adjourned. Components of stalled bills can be added to other bills that are still “alive,” and bills that are necessary to implement the budget are exempt from this cutoff. Bills that are still alive will either be considered in a fiscal committee, if they have a fiscal impact to the state, or move to the Rules committee.  After a bill passes the Rules committee it can be voted “on the floor” by the full Senate or House. All policy bills must pass their House of origin by 5:00 p.m. on March 13. (Chelene Whiteaker)

WSHA Legislative Testimony: Feb. 18-22

WSHA is testifying on the following bills this week:

Monday, Feb. 18 

  • Senate Health & Long Term Care
  • House Labor & Workplace Standards
    • HB 1907, allowing whistleblowers to bring actions on behalf of the state for violations of workplace protections (Jaclyn Greenberg)

Tuesday, Feb. 19

  • Senate Ways & Means
    • SB 5380, concerning opioid use disorder treatment, prevention and related services (Lauren McDonald)
    • SB 5699, concerning balance billing (Andrew Busz)
  • House Civil Rights & Judiciary
    • HB 1907, concerning the substance use disorder treatment system (Shirley Prasad)

Wednesday, Feb. 20

  • House Appropriations
  • House Health Care & Wellness
  • House Innovation, Technology & Economic Development
  • Senate Health & Long Term Care
    • SB 5672, concerning adult family home specialty services (Zosia Stanley)

Thursday, Feb. 21

  • House Finance
  • Senate Labor & Commerce
    • SB 5169, ensuring the neutrality of public employers and state contractors with regard to employees exercising their rights to collectively bargain (Jaclyn Greenberg)
  • Senate Ways & Means
    • SB 5537, expanding community-based behavioral health facilities through issuance of state bonds (Shirley Prasad)
    • SB 5646, concerning supporting housing (Shirley Prasad)

Friday, Feb. 22

  • Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee
    • SB 5660: concerning the duties of mental health professionals (Jaclyn Greenberg)


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