WSHA continues to focus on preserving Medicaid expansion, improving mental health and access to high-quality care

January 13, 2017

Mental health and opioid use also issues of top concern this legislative session

Contact: Mary Kay Clunies-Ross
WSHA VP, Membership and Communications; 206/216-2894

Seattle — During this year’s budget-writing legislative session, WSHA will be focused on preserving access to care for the more than 700,000 people who received coverage, as well as ensuring that safety net health care programs are meeting the needs of our communities. Continuing the work of the last several years, WSHA will be actively supporting legislation to improve the state’s mental health system.

“The expansion of Apple Health insurance plans in Washington state has made a tremendous difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of families,” said Chris Bandoli, WSHA Senior Vice President, Advocacy and Government Affairs. “It’s essential that we preserve the Medicaid coverage expansions, and make sure that other safety net health care programs, like mental health, are adequately funded. We look forward to working with the legislators and other partners to help build strong Washington state communities.”

Central to that work this year, as it has been for the past several years, is improving access to mental health care. There is no magic fix, but WSHA has identified several feasible steps forward the state could take this year, including improving information sharing, reducing bureaucratic delays around adding new psychiatric facilities, and allowing alternatives to Western and Eastern State for long-term care.

WSHA’s legislative priorities are detailed online and include:

  • Preserve access to health care and health coverage for Washingtonians.
  • Maintain hospital system financial stability.
  • Improve the mental health system. Improve the type of information that providers have so they can deliver better patient care for those with mental health problems, and increase the number of facilities treating patients with acute mental health needs.
  • Provide tools to combat opioid overuse by enhancing the prescription monitoring program.
  • Support innovative care models.
  • Support more timely placements for hospital patients who need long-term care.
  • Reduce administrative burdens on practitioners by enacting the physician compact.
  • Preserve hospitals’ ability to deliver services to patients safely and efficiently.
  • Prevent expansion of scope for ambulatory surgery centers.
  • Clarify legal framework to aid homeless youth receiving medical care.
  • Expand the Worker’s Compensation Trust Eligibility.

Allow public hospital districts to participate in self-insurance risk pools with other hospitals.

WSHA Top Five Operating Budget Requests (in priority order):

  • Re-enact the Hospital Safety Net Assessment Program.
  • Prevent Medicaid payment cuts for hospital-based outpatient clinics. (The governor included a proposed cut of $40 million in his recent budget.)
  • Allow Medicaid billing for integrated mental health in primary care.
  • Improve post-discharge placement for complex patients by increasing funding to facilities willing to serve them.
  • Fund essential services in small rural hospitals as they transition to new value-based payment models. ($4 million)

WSHA Capital Budget Requests:

  • Provide funding for creation of new beds for psychiatric and substance abuse services.
  • Fund capital needs for rural health clinics providing dental care.

Other budget items supported by WSHA:

  • Develop more supportive housing facilities.
  • Increase state funding for community mental health services that prevent the need for inpatient psychiatric care.
  • Increase funding targeted at long-term mental health patients, including improvements at Western and Eastern State Hospitals, alternatives to the state hospital, and supportive housing services.

Support foundational public health services at the Department of Health and local public health.


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