Telemedicine in Senate and House

January 26, 2015

The telemedicine bill that WSHA and its members support has hearings in the Senate and House this week, House Bill 1403 and Senate Bill 5175. (Download the issue brief here.)

This legislation is a top priority for us this session. It guarantees that if an insurer covers a service in person, they will also cover the service if it is provided using audio and video technology called telemedicine.

All the major health insurers are either supportive or neutral on the bill. The bill  does not expand services beyond those normally covered, nor does it affect deductibles, co-payment or utilization rules.

The bill will create more certainty about payment for clinics and hospitals who want to invest in the technology. Telemedicine is already helping patients across the state get expert consultations for mental health, emergency cardiac and stroke interventions, and is a clear path towards bringing services to people who may otherwise have a hard time accessing care without a great deal of travel.

If your hospital or health system has a member on either of the committees hearing the telemedicine bill, your government affairs staff likely received an email on Friday urging contact with your legislators. Please contact them or Chelene Whiteaker for more information. (Chelene Whiteaker, 206/216-2545)

Meeting Work Force Shortages with Innovation

There is increasing public awareness around the question of whether we will have enough physicians, nurses and other caregivers to meet the needs of a growing—and aging—population (read the issue brief here).

Work is happening in several areas to meet those needs, especially for areas of our state that are rural or otherwise underserved. Some of the improvements WSHA is seeking are fairly straightforward. For example, increasing the amount of funding for medical residencies will help more physicians develop practices and roots in our communities.

But there is also an opportunity to develop a more flexible work force that is better able to change to emerging needs in communities. That’s why WSHA is supporting legislation that would establish a structured process to safely pilot and evaluate new or expanded roles for health care professionals. This approach is contained in House Bill 1340.

A great example of this work is already happening in Prosser, where paramedics are providing follow-up care to patients in their homes. For example, a patient recently discharged from the hospital might get a visit from a paramedic who would check that they are taking their medication correctly, that their home is safe and comfortable, and that they are scheduled for the right follow-up appointments (watch a great video about the program here).

Guarding and Payments for Suspects and Inmates

On Thursday, the Senate Law and Justice committee will consider Senate Bill 5593, concerning delivery and payment for health care services by hospitals for inmates and persons detained by law enforcement.

The bill is a result of collaborative negotiations between WSHA and law enforcement over the last year. It addresses two key issues. Hospitals are seeking information about and guarding of sexual and violent offenders who are in the hospital. Law enforcement is seeking predictability about payment for hospital services provided to people in their custody. We are very appreciative of our law enforcement partners for working with us to devise a solution with mutual benefit. We will testify together in support of the bill.

Improvements to the All-Payer Claims Database

WSHA and other organizations that are working toward greater transparency in health care cost and quality have been working to strengthen our state’s current all-payer claims database (read the issue brief here).

HB 1437, which is getting a public hearing on Friday, is supported by all the major stakeholders, including the major insurers. The bill improves existing legislation by clarifying definitions, better articulating the responsibilities of the office of financial management and the lead organization, and setting parameters for release of information.

The bill provides increased protection for reports that contain information about payment amounts. Organizations such as WSHA will be able to access data that is not patient-specific but will still provide important information about utilization that can be used to improve the quality of health care delivery. (Claudia Sanders, 206/216-2508)


WSHA Legislative Testimony Jan. 26-30

WSHA is planning to testify on the following bills:

Monday, January 26

SB 5175: Telemedicine (Senate Health Care). WSHA is again actively working and supporting this year’s telemedicine bill. The bill requires commercial and Medicaid health plans to reimburse providers for health care services delivered through audio and video technology. (Chelene Whiteaker, 206/216-2545)

SB 5010:  Loan Repayment (Senate Health Care). WSHA is part of a broad coalition working to support state loan repayment for primary care providers as a way to increase access in underserved areas. This bill would restore funding to the state Health Professional Loan Repayment Program to 2010 levels. WSHA is advocating that behavioral health providers be eligible for loan repayment.

HB 1105: State Supplemental Budget (House Appropriations). WSHA will testify in support of including substantial funding for mental health beds to address the State Supreme Court case on psychiatric boarding. (Chelene Whiteaker, 206/216-2545)

Tuesday, January 27

Work session: Degrees and Credentials that Lead to Good Jobs: Rural Primary Care Shortage (House Higher Education). WSHA was invited to present on who provides rural primary care and how the state can help. (Cassie Sauer, 206/216-2538)

Wednesday, January 28

HB 1340: Work Force Development (House Health Care & Wellness). This bill would create a structured process to allow pilot programs for health care professionals to learn new skills or roles, use existing skills in new circumstances, and accelerate training. (Ian Corbridge, 206/216-2514)

HB 1080: Loan Repayment (House Health Care & Wellness). This is the companion bill to SB 5010, referenced above. (Ian Corbridge, 206/216-2514)

Thursday, January 29

SB 5593: Delivery and payment for health care services by hospitals for inmates and persons detained by law enforcement (Senate Law and Justice). WSHA supports this bill. (Andrew Busz, 206/216-2533)

SB 5049: Education Requirements for Surgical Technologists (Senate Health Care). The current version of this bill puts additional requirements on surgical techs and hospitals in way that is burdensome and with little benefit. WSHA will testify against the current version of the bill and continues to work with sponsors and interested parties to create a version that is more beneficial to systems and patients. (Ian Corbridge, 206/216-2514)

Friday, January 30

HB 1403: Telemedicine (House Health Care & Wellness). Companion bill to SB 5175.

HB 1437: All Payer Claims Database (House Health Care & Wellness). This bill modifies the all payer claims database to improve health care quality and cost transparency. (Claudia Sanders, 206/216-2508)


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