Inside Olympia: House and Senate floors considering bills

March 4, 2019

The House and Senate are now considering bills that have advanced through their respective committees, giving them an opportunity to be voted on in either the House or Senate floor. There are several bills heading toward the floor that WSHA has concerns about, including:

  • Uninterrupted meal/rest breaks and limits on staffing
  • Expansion of wrongful death laws
  • A public option for health insurance coverage with Medicare rates
  • A consumer privacy bill that implicates hospitals in problematic ways
  • Balance billing

It will be a busy couple of weeks, so please be ready to contact your senators and representatives.

On a positive note, bills WSHA supports are also advancing including Certificate of Need for psychiatric beds and the Senate’s version of the Safety Net Assessment bill (see more below).

Bills that pass the full House or Senate by 5 p.m. March 13 will be referred for action in the opposite chamber. Unless they already went through committee in that same form, the bills will start the process over again.

HB 1135: Wrongful death bill advances closer to House floor

WSHA opposes HB 1135, which passed out of House Appropriations and is expected to advance through the Rules committee on its way to the floor. WSHA sent an action alert to members today with further details, so please prepared to contact your representatives. The Senate version of the bill also continues to progress.

The bill, as currently constructed, proposes to expand existing law about who may sue when a loved one dies because of the act of another (“wrongful death”) and what categories of damages they may recover. WSHA is especially concerned about removing the requirement that a person be financially dependent on the deceased to bring an action. This change and others mixed with existing state law on joint and several liability is a recipe for massive liability exposure for hospitals and other so-called “deep pocket” defendants.

Hospitals will potentially be on the hook for an entire award, even if they are found only 1 percent at fault. WSHA supports changes to the bill that would make liability “several only,” not joint and several, for certain claimants who were not financially dependent on the deceased. This is a fair and balanced approach that holds defendants to their proportionate share of fault while providing an opportunity for accountability for the family who has lost a loved one.  (Jaclyn Greenberg)

SSB 5344: Proactive nursing fatigue bill advances closer to Senate floor; Uninterrupted breaks and limits to staffing also advances

WSHA strongly supports SSB 5344, which is the proactive nursing fatigue bill. The bill is now in the Rules committee after passing out of Senate Ways and Means. HB 1155 and SSB 5190 — requiring uninterrupted breaks and limits to on-call and overtime — is also in Rules. Unfortunately, we expect HB 1155 to pass the House as it has for the last several years.

SSB 5344 would resolve complaints about missed meal and rest breaks through nurse staffing committees and address nurse fatigue by capping direct patient care to no more than 60 hours per week across all employers. The bill also requires nurse staffing committees to review call-back rates for nurses who get called in to work during an on-call shift. Read more from the Feb. 11 Inside Olympia. (Lauren McDonald)

SB 5734: Safety Net Assessment passes the Senate

SB 5734, concerning the hospital Safety Net Assessment, has passed the Senate with a vote of 47-1. The House version of the bill is in Appropriations where an amendment that WSHA does not support is being considered. WSHA would like to see the House pass Substitute House Bill 1748 with no changes.

The Hospital Safety Net Assessment program is key to protecting our state’s most vulnerable hospitals by augmenting Medicaid payments. WSHA strongly supports extending the program, which is set to expire July 1, 2021. Besides providing funding to hospitals for Medicaid services, the program provides significant revenue to the state’s operating budget. The program requires no state funding to operate, as it is funded by the assessments paid by hospitals and federal matching funds. Furthermore, it supports family practice residencies and training for integrated behavioral health care. Read WSHA’s complete issue brief for additional information. (Andrew Busz)

Thank you for testifying!

Thank you to everyone who testified this past week in support of WSHA’s legislative efforts:

  • Jacqueline Butin, UW Medicine, Harborview Medical Center
  • Dr. Andrea Chatburn, Providence St. Joseph Health
  • Pat Ahearne, St. Clare Hospital


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