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April 20, 2023

Washington State Medical Association Praises Lawmakers for Protecting Health and Safety of Patients, Access to Care

SEATTLE, WA - The Washington State Medical Association, which represents more than 12,000 physicians and physician assistants, today commended the Washington State Legislature for enacting legislation that prioritizes the health and safety of all Washingtonians and the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship, including provisions ensuring abortion access, addressing gun violence, and reforming those prior authorizations that unnecessarily delay patient care.

The following bills were passed by the Legislature during the 2023 state legislative session and are expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Abortion access

  • House Bill 1340 clarifies that providing reproductive health and gender-affirming care services consistent with Washington state standards of care, even in a state where such services are prohibited, does not constitute unprofessional conduct under Washington's Uniform Disciplinary Act.
  • House Bill 1469 establishes criminal and civil liability protections for patients and health care professionals receiving or delivering abortion services and gender-affirming care.
  • Senate Bill 5242 prohibits cost sharing (e.g., copays, deductibles) for abortion services.

Gun violence

  • House Bill 1240 prohibits the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic "assault weapons," including firearms such as the AR-15 and AK-47.
  • House Bill 1143 requires individuals to have recently completed a firearm safety training program and undergo a background check and 10-day waiting period to be eligible to purchase firearms.
  • Senate Bill 5078 establishes a right of action against the firearm industry in circumstances where violence results from their conduct such as advertising targeted at minors and promoting the illegal conversion of firearms.

Prior authorization

  • House Bill 1357 helps ensure timely access to care by streamlining insurance carrier prior authorization practices. The legislation will help shorten turnaround times for decisions and mandate insurance carriers implement electronic prior authorization processes that integrate into physicians' electronic health record systems.

"Washingtonians' ability to access care and addressing social determinants of health have been central to many of the biggest conversations in Olympia this year," said WSMA President Katina Rue, DO. "We are pleased to see lawmakers keep patients' health and safety top of mind by passing strong policies to protect abortion services and address gun violence, while supporting their ability to access timely care with sensible prior authorization reforms."

As the state's largest professional association representing physicians and PAs, the WSMA works to advance health care policy that prioritizes the health and wellness of Washingtonians and their communities, supports patients' ability to access their physician and health care services, and helps create and maintain a robust practice environment for physicians so they can thrive professionally.

"Everything we do at the WSMA is done with our patients in mind," said Dr. Rue. "With the continued rise in senseless gun violence, unconscionable efforts to limit reproductive health care services, and seemingly endless barriers to practicing medicine, sometimes it feels like the cards are stacked against both the individual patient and their physician. Each patient-centered policy that passes is a beacon of hope - and a step toward making our state the best place to practice medicine and to receive care."

As the 2023 session moves towards adjournment on Sunday, April 23, and legislators negotiate the final state operating budget for the 2023-25 fiscal biennium, one item that is being considered is Medicaid reimbursement rate increases for health care services delivered by physicians, PAs, and advanced registered nurse practitioners. The budget proposed by the House of Representatives would appropriate $67.8 million to raise rates while the Senate did not include this funding. The WSMA is advocating that the rate increases be included in the final operating budget.

Dr. Rue adds, "We are hopeful there will be at least modest increases in Medicaid physician payments in this budget cycle, in addition to the increases slated for hospital payments. In all likelihood, Medicaid payments for physician services will still fall short of the cost of delivering care, requiring continued work this year and in the 2024 legislative session to fully fund the state's Medicaid system and ensure access to care for all Medicaid enrollees."

For more information, contact:

Graham Short
WSMA Director of Communications
206.329.6851 (cell/text)

About the Washington State Medical Association
The WSMA represents more than 12,000 physicians, physician assistants, resident physicians, and medical students across all specialties and practice types in Washington state. The WSMA has advocated on behalf of the house of medicine for more than 125 years. Our vision is to make Washington state the best place to practice medicine and receive care.

Join or renew your membership today!