Inside Olympia: Establishing health emergency labor standards, Qui Tam and more

January 19, 2021

The session is off to a quick start, and WSHA will be addressing the following major legislation this week.

SB 5115: Establishing health emergency labor standards

WSHA has concerns with SB 5115, which is the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act. This legislation applies when there is a declared public health emergency, and the bill is primarily focused on “frontline employees.” Frontline employees are defined to include, among many others across various sectors, the majority of employees of hospitals and health care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It creates a presumption that any infectious or contagious disease that is the subject of a declared public health emergency is an occupational disease for all frontline employees. It provides additional paid sick leave during a public health emergency, as well as requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide 12 weeks of emergency childcare leave when childcare is unavailable or the child is not able to physically attend class in person. It requires additional reporting to the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) during the emergency when a certain percentage of employees either test positive or show symptoms of the disease. Further, it includes whistleblower protection and introduces a qui tam provision that would allow a third party to bring action on behalf of a whistleblower.

While WSHA understands the bill’s intent, the extensive leave provisions would add pressure to an already depleted workforce; the additional reporting to L&I that triggers investigations needs to align with DOH as the agency with expertise on infectious and contagious diseases; the presumption that an employee contracted COVID at work is concerning when we understand most transmissions are community acquired and health care workers are already accessing workers’ compensation benefits under existing law; and qui tam potentially leaves hospitals vulnerable to frivolous and abusive lawsuits.

The Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs held a public hearing on SB 5115 at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 18. WSHA is asking for extensive changes to the bill. (Alicia Eyler)

HB 1076: Qui tam

WSHA strongly opposes HB 1076, which allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the government (“qui tam”) over alleged labor law violations in exchange for a portion of the financial award. The bill incentivizes frivolous and abusive lawsuits, and it would penalize well-intentioned employers as much as bad actors. California is the only state in the country with a similar qui tam law, and to disastrous effects. California’s experience shows that a law like HB 1076 would be ineffective at protecting workers and can become a burden on state resources. Moreover, HB 1076 circumvents L&I’s existing enforcement processes and creates obstacles to curing alleged violations. The House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards will hold a public hearing on HB 1076 at 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22. (David Streeter)

SB 5140: Miscarriage management

WSHA opposes SB 5140, which establishes a private cause of action pertaining to miscarriage management and care for ectopic pregnancies. This allows private entities to take legal action against a hospital for grievances on behalf of another, such as a patient. This broad expansion of who is permitted to take action can lead to frivolous, resource-draining lawsuits. The Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care will hold a public hearing on SB 5140 at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Zosia Stanley)

HB 1148: Expanded regulation of acute care hospitals

WSHA is working with members to establish its position on HB 1148, which expands the regulatory and disciplinary authority of the Department of Health (DOH) over acute care hospitals. Specifically, it would broaden the types of enforcement tools DOH could use when a hospital is noncompliant and establishes an appeals process. The bill comes in the wake of HB 2426, which passed the Legislature in 2020 and expanded DOH’s regulatory and disciplinary authority over freestanding psychiatric hospitals to address public concern over the quality of care at these facilities. HB 1148 would apply the same regulation to acute care hospitals, and WSHA wants to ensure the bill’s approach is logical for acute care facilities. The House Committee on Health Care & Wellness will hold a public hearing on HB 1148 at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 21. (Shirley Prasad)

HB 1141: Increasing access to the Death with Dignity Act

WSHA is seeking clarifying amendments to HB 1141, which removes regulatory burden to accessing Washington State’s Death with Dignity Act. Specifically, it expands the types of providers who can offer Death with Dignity and counsel patients, shortens the timeline to patients obtaining their medications, and allows easier access to medications. Hospitals are permitted to opt-out of taking part in Death with Dignity by providing notice to providers and patients. Providers who work in an abstaining facility may participate in the law outside the workplace and scope of employment. WSHA is seeking an amendment to clarify this option. The bill also 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. The House Committee on Health Care & Wellness will hold a public hearing on HB 1141 at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Zosia Stanley)

Testimony: We need your help!

Your testimony is critical to helping enact legislation that will strengthen our health care system. Some bills introduced this session will get hearings before committees. Testimony will be given virtually this year, and if you are asked to testify, we hope you will be able to log on to tell your hospital’s story and explain to lawmakers how their decisions will impact patient care. Our Government Affairs team will help you navigate this new, virtual format.

Join us for our legislative kickoff webcast Thursday, Jan. 21

Join us at noon on Thursday, Jan. 21 for our state legislative session kickoff webcast. The members-only webcast will cover what to expect during the 2021 legislative session and give an overview of WSHA’s legislative priorities and hot topics. The webcast will include an opportunity to ask questions of WSHA’s Government Affairs leaders. It will also be recorded for members to view at their convenience. Register now and add the webcast to your calendar.

WSHA Weighing In: Jan. 18-22

WSHA is weighing in on the following bills this week:
Monday, Jan. 18

  • House Children, Youth & Families
    • SB 1061: Concerning youth eligible for developmental disability services who are expected to exit the child welfare system. (Zosia Stanley)
  • House Health Care & Wellness
    • HB 1086: Creating the state office of behavioral health consumer advocacy. (Jaclyn Greenberg)
    • HB 1120: Concerning state of emergency operations impacting long-term services and supports. (Zosia Stanley)
    • HB 1141: Increasing access to the Death with Dignity Act (see article above). (Zosia Stanley)
  • Senate Health & Long Term Care
    • SB 5052: Concerning the creation of health equity zones. (Alicia Eyler)
  • Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs
    • SB 5097:  Expanding coverage of the paid family and medical leave program. (Alicia Eyler)
    • SB 5115: Establishing health emergency labor standards. (Alicia Eyler)

Wednesday, Jan. 20

  • House Health Care & Wellness
    • HB 1096: Concerning non-Medicare plans offered through the Washington state health insurance pool. (Shirley Prasad)
    • HB 1124: Concerning nurse delegation of glucose monitoring, glucose testing, and insulin injections. (Alicia Eyler)
  • House Labor & Workplace Standards
  • Senate Health & Long Term Care
    • SB 5068: Improving maternal health outcomes by extending coverage during the postpartum period. (Shirley Prasad)
    • SB 5140: Protecting pregnancy and miscarriage-related patient care. (See article above.) (Zosia Stanley)
  • Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs
    • SB 5064: Concerning qualifications for unemployment insurance when an individual voluntarily leaves work. (David Streeter)

Thursday, Jan. 21

  • House Health Care & Wellness
    • HB 1148: Protecting patients in acute care hospitals. (Shirley Prasad)
    • HB 1160: Concerning health provider contracts. (See article above.) (Andrew Busz)
  • House Public Safety
    • HB 1109: Concerning victims of sexual assault. (Alicia Eyler)
  • Senate Housing & Local Government
  • Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs
    • SB 5046: Concerning workers’ compensation claim resolution settlement agreements. (David Streeter)
    • SB 5102: Concerning industrial insurance medical examinations. (David Streeter)

Friday, Jan. 22

  • House Environment & Energy
    • HB 1084: Reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions by achieving greater decarbonization of residential and commercial buildings. (David Streeter)
  • House Labor & Workplace Standards
  • Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Senate Health & Long Term Care
    • SB 5195: Concerning prescribing opioid overdose reversal medication. (Jaclyn Greenberg)
  • Senate Health & Long Term Care
    • SB 5020: Assessing a penalty on unsupported prescription drug price increases to protect the safety, health, and economic well-being of Washington residents. (Andrew Busz)
    • SB 5075: Expanding access to pharmacy services. (Andrew Busz)
    • SB 5076: Concerning mail order prescription services. (Andrew Busz)


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