Value of the Legislative Process

April 20, 2015

The big headlines for this session might be about the state budget debate, but for us at WSHA, the session has been memorable because of the productivity of our partnerships.

The development of our legislative agenda always has our members’ experiences at the center of it. We are focused on how proposed—or needed—legislation will affect our ability to improve quality and increase access to health care services in Washington State communities.

But that’s just the beginning of the conversation that engages lawmakers, state agencies and other advocates. Everyone comes at problems from their own perspective and it’s not always an easy or quick process. This year we’ve seen that the results of this process are well-worth it. Here are a couple of examples where we worked with lawmakers and other advocates to develop legislation that will benefit communities:

  • Telemedicine (see last week’s Inside Olympia for more),
  • All-Payer Claims Database (see the release here)
  • Suspect and Inmate Guarding (working with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and the Association of Washington Cities) and,
  • Pharmacy (working with the Department of Health and the Washington State Pharmacy Association)

All these issues, and many others, are emblematic of the change that is possible when people are willing to come to the table. With that mindset, the legislature can truly be the place where innovation and collaboration can make real improvements in the lives of our residents.

Here’s a little more detail on the inmate and pharmacy bills. (Cassie Sauer, 206/216-2538)

SB 5593: Suspect and Inmate Guarding

Senate Bill 5593 passed the House unanimously last week with a 98-0 vote. It also passed the Senate unanimously.

This legislation, developed with lawmakers and in partnership with Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and Association of Washington Cities, takes major strides on two issues simultaneously: establishing a common set of expectations around the guarding inmates and suspects, and clarifying issues related to payment for their medical care.

These issues have been contentious in years past, both at the local level and at the state legislative level. Last year, we advocated for legislation that would have required that all jails, prisons and law enforcement agencies provide security when a hospital patient had been convicted or detained due to a suspicion of a violent or sexual crime, without exception.

At the same time, local law enforcement agencies proposed legislation mandating that Medicaid be the payment level for hospital services for people in their custody. Each association opposed the others’ bill and neither bill passed, but the stand-off opened up conversations.

Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-25) introduced both last year and this year’s bills. At this year’s first hearing, he said, “This process … represents what the legislative process can be about…. (I looked into the issue of violence in emergency rooms and) that led to the dropping of a bill in a previous session to start the dialogue. We got some very good constructive dialogue going among our law enforcement, our municipalities and our hospitals and what you have in front of you is the result of that coordination.”

We know this bill doesn’t solve all of the issues related to care of this population, and careful attention will have to be paid to implementation. The process sets the stage for more collaborative problem-solving going forward.

See this Inside Olympia for more on this bill’s development. (Andrew Busz, 206/-216-2533)

SB 5460: Pre-Packs and Pharmacy Licensure

Senate Bill 5460 allows ER patients to get prepackaged emergency medications in times and locations when a 24-hour community pharmacy is not available. For example, patients being discharged from the ER may need to start a course of antibiotics or need medication for pain.

This bill also provides three different pathways for how medications can be transferred and handled between a hospital pharmacy and a clinic and how those clinics can be licensed.

HB 1625: Providing Drugs to EMS

The other pharmacy bill WSHA worked hard to amend was House Bill 1625, which allows hospitals to provide drugs to emergency medical services. This bill codifies what has been longstanding practices while ensuring access and providing more cost-effective options for local emergency medical service providers.

Pharmacy issues had not traditionally been part of WSHA’s policy agenda, but we heard members’ concerns around some of these issues. Over the last several months, WSHA worked closely with the Department of Health to gain consensus on these bills and looks forward to collaborating in the interim to address other outstanding pharmacy issues. (Ian Corbridge, 206/216-2514)

What’s Next

The Governor is busy evaluating bills sent to him by the legislature and taking action on those bills. WSHA will be weighing in on many bills, mostly urging his signature on our key policy issues.

The regular session of the Washington State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on Sunday, April 26. However, it is very unlikely that budget negotiations will be complete by then. There will likely need to be one or more special sessions; when it will be convened, what topics will be covered, and who will be involved should be announced next week.

THURSDAY, APRIL 30: Legislative Session Webcast! Save your noon hour for a webcast with WSHA policy and advocacy leaders to hear more about our progress this session. There’s a lot of good news, so tune in! Log in details will be in next week’s Inside Olympia.


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Washington State Hospital Association
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Seattle, WA 98104

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