Inside Olympia: State charity care law improvements, informed consent, Ricky’s law and more

January 29, 2018

We are rapidly approaching the first cutoff of the year. Friday, February 2 is the first cutoff for policy bills to leave their committees. While we never say a bill is dead until the legislature adjourns, this is an important milestone in the session. As a result, a lot of policy bills are getting hearings this week, and committee executive sessions are hard at work.

The budget bills have until February 6 to leave the House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees. See the calendar here.

Improvement to state charity care law

Hospital care is the most intense health care environment and some low-income uninsured and underinsured patients receive bills they cannot afford. Hospitals are long committed to providing treatment to people in their community, regardless of ability to pay. All hospitals in Washington State provide charity care — also known as financial assistance — to low-income patients as required by state law. Read more about charity care on the WSHA website.

WSHA members have been working hard to standardize charity care processes and make sure patients are notified about the availability of free and reduced care. HB 2836 (SB 6273) will continue to increase standardization and transparency by specifying how hospitals provide information to patients about charity care and clarifying definitions in state law. The bill also includes a requirement that hospitals train relevant staff on the hospital’s charity care policy and interpret services. WSHA worked with Columbia Legal Services and legislative sponsors on this important improvement to state law that will benefit patients and hospitals.

WSHA will testify in favor of the bill at the hearings in both the House and Senate. (Zosia Stanley)

Informed consent

Washington State law allows very few people to make health care related decisions for patients who are incapacitated. Patients without those specific relatives are often left in legal limbo, even if there are other family members or close friends. Under current state law, these other family members or friends must go through a time-consuming and costly legal process to be appointed the patient’s legal guardian by a court. HB 2541 makes it possible for certain other family members and close friends who meet certain standards to make medical decisions. The bill would help more patients receive the right care at the right time.

WSHA will testify in support of this bill, which is also supported by other patients’ rights groups. (Zosia Stanley)

Suspend involuntary treatment requirements for substance abuse patients

Ricky’s Law, enacted in 2016, would allow for the involuntary commitment of people with substance abuse disorders in a process that is similar to those in mental health crisis. However, WSHA is concerned that the state does not have enough secure detoxification beds to serve patients when the law takes effect in April.

HB 2401 and SB 6365 would delay the law if the need for beds overwhelms the availability. We will be testifying in support of these bills this week.

For more information, read WSHA’s recent bulletin or our issue brief, or contact Chelene Whiteaker.

Expanding capital investments for behavioral health services

SB 6468 establishes a referendum to be sent to the voters to authorize the state to sell $500 million in bonds for capital improvements to increase behavioral health services in community settings. If approved by the voters, these bonds could be used to include build evaluation and treatment facilities, crisis triage and stabilization centers, alternative step-down beds, enhanced service facilities, detoxification centers, transitional and long-term housing, and residential treatment centers. There is a deep need to provide more behavioral health services in our communities, and at different parts of the continuum of care.

WSHA will be testifying in support of the bill. (Andrew Busz)

WSHA Legislative Testimony: January 29-February 2

WSHA is testifying on the following bills this week:

Monday, January 29

  • Senate Health Care & Long Term Care
    • SB 6247 (companion to HB 2482) proposes to drastically limit the ability of health care facilities to plan health care services and standardize care. The bill would negatively impact the quality, safety, and cost of care. (Chelene Whiteaker)
    • SB 6273 (companion to HB 2836, see article above)
  • Senate Human Services & Corrections
    • SB 6365 (see article above)
  • Senate Ways and Means
    • SB 6468 (see article above)
  • Senate Law & Justice
    • SB 6408 (companion to HB 2893) preserves privacy protections for body-worn camera recordings that will sunset on July 1, 2019 under current law. (Sheena Tomar)

Tuesday, January 30

  • House Health Care & Wellness
    • HB 2836 (see article above)
  • House Judiciary
    • HB 2401 (see article above)
    • HB 2541 (see article above)
  • Senate Health Care & Long Term Care
    • SB 6470 requires the OIC to increase review of health plans for network adequacy around regularly provided hospital-based services

Friday, February 2


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