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The voices of individual physicians and physician assistants are crucial in informing the decisions made at the state and federal levels.

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The expertise, experience, and perspective of physicians and physician assistants practicing in Washington is crucial to helping to inform our advocacy on your behalf. And, it's often crucial in helping to inform legislators' decision-making on policy being debated at the state and federal levels.

On this page, we'll highlight some of WSMA's top advocacy priorities where lawmakers need to hear from physicians and PAs directly.


Put Patients First! Prioritize Medicaid and Public Health in the Final State Budget

The WSMA is encouraged that the state budget proposals offered by the House of Representatives and the Senate both include funding for Medicaid reimbursement and foundational public health that will benefit Washington patients and the state’s physician community. However, the proposals are just that: proposals. We must keep the pressure on to ensure appropriate funding is included in the final budget.

Legislators in Olympia are currently reconciling the Senate and House budgets. We need you to act right now! Send a message to your lawmakers to thank them for including these funds and urge them to keep these provisions in the final budget funded at the higher levels as reflected in the Senate budget proposal.

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Urge Support for Telemedicine, PPE Reimbursement

Two of WSMA's priority practice viability bills need a push from the physician community to maintain their momentum: one bill ensures continued access to care via audio-only telemedicine, and the other allows physicians to recoup personal protective equipment costs. Lawmakers need to hear from you today on how these bills will impact your practice and the patients you serve.

Audio-only telemedicine, House Bill 1196
HB 1196 would allow patients to receive covered health care services over the telephone, advancing the goal of ensuring they get the right care, in the right place, at the right time. Due to existing emergency orders, insurers are currently required to cover audio-only services, but action is needed to ensure patients can continue to receive appropriate care over the phone on an ongoing basis. HB 1196 was approved by the House on Feb. 24 by a vote of 94-3. The bill is now in the Senate.

PPE reimbursement, Senate Bill 5169
SB 5169 would require commercial insurance carriers to reimburse for personal protective equipment costs that were increased because of the pandemic. The bill would allow physicians and health care providers to bill newly created CPT code 99072 and be reimbursed $6.57 per patient encounter, pursuant to a recommendation from the AMA’s RUC committee. SB 5169 is necessary to spread the increased PPE costs and ensure everyone is paying their fair share. SB 5169 was approved unanimously by the Senate on Feb. 10. The bill is now in the House.

Your lawmakers in Olympia need to hear from you today in support of these bills. Thank you for taking action.

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Urge the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to Continue Support for Telemedicine Payment Policies

In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner implemented Emergency Order 20-02, requiring OIC-regulated fully insured health plans to pay at parity for medical services provided via telephone and requiring all state-regulated carriers to permit and reimburse for care provided over non-HIPAA compliant platforms, including video chat applications. Recently, the OIC extended its emergency order to April 4. Please take a moment to thank the OIC for these flexibilities and urge them to continue to support telehealth/phone consultation at payment parity with in-person visits through the duration of the public health crisis.

Send a message to the OIC by sending an email to MikeK@oic.wa.gov. (Note: You will receive an automatic response that you can disregard.) We've supplied messaging if helpful.

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Sample message

My name is [Name], I am a [Physician at Location], and I write to thank you for the telemedicine flexibilities you have provided and urge your to support for the continued extension of Emergency Order 20-02 for the duration of the public health crisis.

Physicians and practices need certainty that these policies will remain in effect as the pandemic continues to play out in Washington state so that there is no interruption in our ability to provide care to our patients.

Talking points

Telemedicine, including care provided over the telephone, has emerged as a critical tool for physicians by allowing patients to see their them conveniently and safely, without the need to travel and without the risk of exposure to, and potential spread of, the virus.

OIC Emergency Order 20-02, requiring OIC-regulated fully insured health plans to pay at parity for telephone services and requiring all state-regulated carriers to permit and reimburse for care provided over non-HIPAA compliant platforms, including video chat applications, will should be extended through the duration of the public health crisis.

It’s important that everyone continue chronic care management and routine care without disruption or delay, to ensure that patients are being properly managed during this time of social distancing. Telemedicine, including telephone, offers physician practices the ability to manage acute or chronic conditions unrelated to COVID-19, including certain primary care, pediatric care, behavioral health, and other services.

With the telemedicine (audio/visual) payment parity provisions of SB 5385 fully effective on Jan. 1, 2021, it’s still important that care provided over the telephone or over non-HIPAA compliant platforms continue to be at payment parity with in-person visits through the end of the public health emergency, so that there is no interruption in physicians’ ability to provide care to their patients.

Like virtually all of our state’s businesses, physician practices have been financially impacted by the pandemic. Telemedicine payment parity has been a life raft for many of our state’s practices, helping to keep practices afloat and facilitating access to care for patients across the state. We thank the OIC for its previous emergency orders providing for payment parity for services provided over the telephone or non-HIPAA compliant platforms, and urge you to continue to extend these provisions until the end of the public health emergency.

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