The 2022 legislative session begins today. This year’s session is the second in the two-year biennium and will last for 60 days, making it a “short” session. This year’s session will be held in a largely virtual format, like the 2021 session, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The session begins with policy action on bills for the first several weeks. Toward the middle of session, both chambers will release supplemental budget proposals.
We thank all our members and their dedication to serving patients during this unprecedented time. Recently approved by the WSHA Board of Directors, WSHA’s 2022 legislative agenda is robust and reflects important priorities to support hospitals during the pandemic and the recovery. Below are the top issues we will be working to advance:
- Increase state funding for nurse education slots. Hospitals and other care settings are experiencing a critical shortage of nurses. Hospitals recently reported a shortage of 6,100 full time and part-time nursing positions. Partnering with our state’s nursing unions, and other key stakeholders, WSHA strongly supports investments to expand the number of new nurse graduates and to help create a sustainable workforce of future nurses. Hospitals also support efforts to strengthen and improve the career ladder into the nursing profession.
- Increase state funding for long-term care for patients who are ready to be discharged and need post-acute care. No one should live in a hospital, but some patients are not able to be discharged to more appropriate post-acute care settings (such as a skilled nursing facilities, adult family homes or nursing homes). The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation. WSHA supports funding for DSHS assessors to ensure patients qualify for timely long-term care, providing increased dollars for low-income patients who need a legal guardian, and increasing Medicaid rates to support patients who need post-acute care.
- Preserve flexibility in workforce and staffing. As the health care system confronts these extremely challenging times, the entire health care community must do our absolute best to ensure access to care for all patients. Hospitals across the country are facing critical staffing shortages, most acutely felt with a severe national shortage of nurses. Hospitals must be able to staff for patients during the pandemic and would oppose new mandates that impact workforce and staffing laws and impose heavy fines for non-compliance of staffing laws during a pandemic. WSHA would like the Legislature to prioritize and invest in increasing the health care workforce.
- Allow recognized surrogate decision makers to consent to long-term care placement and services. A recent change in DSHS interpretation of federal and state law has led to a significant increase in patients in hospitals who must have a guardian appointed by a court to move out of the hospitals and into long-term care placement. We need to clarify state law to return to the previous framework that allowed close family and friends (listed in the state surrogate decision maker law) to consent to long-term care for their loved one.
- Make strategic investments in comprehensive behavioral health programs to ensure everyone in Washington has access to services in the most appropriate setting. Access to behavioral health services is lacking across the continuum of care. We need legislative investments in the behavioral health system of care, including behavioral health workforce development, expanded coverage of services, such as partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment, and additional step-down options to ensure access to services before people are in crisis and after hospitalization.
HB 1741: Addressing affordability through health care provider contracting
WSHA strongly opposes HB 1741, which places contracting restrictions on hospitals and their affiliates and gives insurance carriers more leverage in contract negotiations. The bill would also restrict the formation of new clinically integrated networks. In addition, a new provision from last year’s version of the bill requires the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to review filed provider compensation agreements for “affordability” and whether it meets or aims to meet the health care cost transparency board’s health care cost growth benchmarks. This bill singles out hospitals and providers for health care increases and WSHA plans to testify in opposition. (Andrew Busz)
HB 1739: Modernizing hospital policies related to pathogens of epidemiological concern
WSHA strongly supports HB 1739, which updates the state’s current law to prevent the spread of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in hospitals. Washington State’s current MRSA law needs to be updated to increase patient and staff safety. Infectious disease scientists’ understanding of MRSA is more comprehensive now and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified additional dangerous pathogens since the Legislature initially passed the law in 2009. Washington’s MRSA law overcommits hospital resources and attention to one pathogen, which consumes staff time and testing supplies, and limits hospital space without meaningfully increasing patient and staff safety. WSHA’s proposal requires hospitals to develop a policy to prevent and control the transmission of pathogens based on a risk assessment and evidence-based intervention strategies. It also aligns data reporting requirements with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). WSHA played a key role in crafting this legislation and will testify in favor. Read more from WSHA’s issue brief. (David Streeter)
HB 1761: Allowing nurses to dispense opioid overdose reversal medication in the emergency department
WSHA strongly supports HB 1761, which allows nurses to dispense lifesaving opioid reversal medication. Last year, the Legislature enacted a bill requiring hospitals to provide opioid reversal medication to certain patients at risk of an overdose. Unfortunately, the new law is too narrow in application and requires a prescriber to distribute the medication to patients in the ER setting, which could create patient backlogs. WSHA plans to testify in favor. Read more from WSHA’s issue brief. (Cara Helmer)
HB 1616: Concerning the charity care act
WSHA strongly supports access to necessary hospital care for all Washingtonians, regardless of income. However, this must be done in a way that is financially sustainable for hospitals and equitable across the health care system. WSHA does not support HB 1616 – which applies to psychiatric and acute care hospitals – as introduced but has done significant work to amend the bill. Fundamentally, charity care is a safety net program and is not a substitute for health care insurance. The best way to ensure access to health care is to support all patients enrolling and accessing comprehensive health care coverage. Read more from WSHA’s issue brief. (Zosia Stanley)
Join us for our Legislative Session Kickoff webinar Jan. 11
Please join us at noon Tuesday, Jan. 11 for our annual Legislative Session Kickoff webinar for members. The webinar will cover what to expect during the 2022 legislative session and give an overview of WSHA’s legislative priorities and hot topics. It will also include an opportunity to ask questions of WSHA’s Government Affairs leaders. We will record the webinar for our members to watch at their convenience. Register now.
Join us for Hospital Advocacy Days Jan. 24-28
Registration is now open for WSHA’s Advocacy Days, Jan. 24-28, 2022! This will be our fourth-annual Advocacy Days, and once more we will hold our activities and meetings virtually. We will spend the time advocating for our priorities, talking with legislators and telling the hospital story. Attendees will also be able to attend a legislative briefing for an overview of the political landscape and our top issues as well as an advocacy bootcamp to learn how to shape their stories and prepare for legislative visits. Please register as soon as possible so our team can schedule meetings with legislators. Register online at wsha.org/advocacydays and contact Joanna Castellanos at email@example.com with questions.
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 virtual format.
WSHA Weighing In: Jan. 10-14
WSHA is weighing in on the following bills this week:
Monday, Jan. 10
- House College & Workforce Development
- HB 1622: Increasing the availability of sexual assault nurse examiner education in rural and underserved areas. (Jacqueline Barton True)
- House Health Care & Wellness
- HB 1761: Allowing nurses to dispense opioid overdose reversal medication in the emergency department. (Cara Helmer)
Tuesday, Jan. 11
- House Civil Rights & Judiciary
- HB 1754: Concerning prejudgment interest. (Zosia Stanley)
- House College & Workforce Development
- HB 1659: Making higher education more affordable and accessible for students by bridging the gap between cost and need to reduce barriers, improve opportunity, and advance economic security. (Ed Phippen)
- House Public Safety
Wednesday, Jan. 12
- House Health Care & Wellness
- HB 1688: Protecting consumers from charges for out-of-network health care services, by aligning state law and the federal no surprises act and addressing coverage of treatment for emergency conditions. (Andrew Busz)
- HB 1708: Concerning facility fees for audio-only telemedicine. (David Streeter)
- HB 1741: Addressing affordability through health care provider contracting. (Andrew Busz)
- Senate Long Term Care
- SB 5496: Concerning health professional monitoring programs. (Cara Helmer)
- House Labor & Workforce Standards
- HB 1779: Concerning surgical smoke. (Ed Phippen)
Thursday, Jan. 13
- House Finance
- HB 1676: Using the taxation of vapor products to fund additional tobacco and vapor use prevention and cessation programs and services. (Ed Phippen)
- House Health Care & Wellness
Friday, Jan. 14
- House Labor & Workplace Standards
- HB 1763: Concerning injured workers’ rights during independent medical examinations. (David Streeter)
- Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Health & Long Term Care
- SB 5638: Concerning expediting approval for applicants for an associate license as a social worker, mental health counselor, or marriage and family therapist. (Ed Phippen)
- SB 5644: Concerning providing quality behavioral health co-response services. (Cara Helmer)
- SB 5655: Making state hospitals available for short-term detention and involuntary commitment. (Cara Helmer)