|Senate Republicans proposed a new budget today that includes new revenue expectations including those from anticipated cannabis revenues and increased federal funding.
Hospital Safety Net Assessment: The Senate makes no improvement to its proposal for the hospital safety net assessment, an area of intense concern for WSHA and member hospital and health systems. The Senate maintains its proposal to increase the daily assessment amount in order to take more dollars into the state general fund. In total, the Senate proposal increases the amount taken by the state by $47 million more for the state general fund and $20 million more for increased residency slots.
WSHA’s position is that the daily assessment rate needs to be set at reasonable levels; we have concerns about the Senate proposal being at the federal cap for the program. WSHA also supports an approach that shares benefits from the program on an equal basis between state general fund payments and improved Medicaid hospital payments. In addition, the structure of the assessment should carefully balance the benefit for all types of hospitals, which the Senate proposal does not do. Our goal is to structure a program with the best chance over the long run of being a successful partnership between hospitals and the state.
Mental Health: We are pleased that the new Senate budget reduces some of the mental health cuts made in the previous budget, with an additional $13.8 million for funding services not covered by Medicaid for people living with a mental illness. However, we would still like to see a higher level of funding for these important services.
What Happens Next:
According to the Seattle Times, House Democrats will also issue a new budget on Monday. WSHA strongly supports the current version of the House operating budget, which takes a balanced approach to the safety net assessment and significantly improves mental health funding,
Governor Jay Inslee is expected to declare a second 30-day special session, which, if it goes as long as scheduled, will last nearly until the end of June. Legislators will continue working to beat that deadline. The next fiscal year starts July 1, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about how state government will function if there is no budget in place. That has not happened in Washington State before, but it would result in the closure of many state services.