Update on WSMA priority policy as legislative session enters week five
With attention still diverted to confusion and uncertainty for health care at the federal level, news from the state legislative session remains relatively subdued. As session enters week five, lawmakers and issue advocates remain busy with hearings, as the work of policy-making slowly gathers steam.
Here is a brief high-level overview of policy the WSMA is tracking—notable highlights from last week and a look at what’s happening this week. For more information on the bills listed, visit the WSMA’s Legislative Action Center. And for real-time updates during legislative session, follow the WSMA on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
What happened last week (Jan. 30-Feb. 3)
Health care policy debated last week included:
Addressing the opioid epidemic
Restrictions on prescriptions for opioid drugs – HB 1339. A prime example of “legislating the practice of medicine” is House Bill 1339. The bill, an attempt by legislators to address the opioid epidemic, would set pill count limits on certain prescriptions, which the WSMA believes would adversely affect access to care and seriously restrict a physician’s ability to provide care they deem appropriate. The WSMA testified in opposition to the bill.
Prescription monitoring program data – HB 1426 / SB 5248. Priority legislation for both the WSMA and the Washington State Hospital Association, these bills serve as alternatives to blunt measures like HB 1339. These bills would:
Permit local public health officers to access prescribing data to help identify at-risk patients and provide services and support.
Create a near-fatal “overdose notification system.”
Allow the DOH to provide facilities and group practices with prescribing reports for the express purpose of quality improvement, allowing them to address inappropriate prescribing in-house.
The WSMA believes these bills, drafted using feedback from physicians and other providers on the front lines of the epidemic, represent a smarter approach on behalf of the house of medicine to curb opioid abuse and overdose. More than 15 organizations/associations signed in to support these bills.
Thank you to WSMA members Drs. Scott Kennedy, Kent Hu, David Tauben and Stephen Anderson for providing testimony on these important bills.
Access to care
High-risk insurance pool – HB 1338 / SB 5253. These WSMA-supported bills would allow some of Washington’s most vulnerable citizens to have health insurance through the state’s high-risk insurance pool.
Volk v. DeMeerleer. A work session on this far-reaching court case decision took place in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing committee on Tuesday, Jan. 31. This court case deals with a duty to warn and in what instances physicians must warn others of possible violent threats. See the Membership Memo item in this issue for an update on WSMA’s response to this onerous court decision.
Bills that passed out of committee last week:
“Tobacco 21” – HB 1054. A WSMA priority public health bill, House Bill 1054 would raise the age of purchase of tobacco products to 21. The bill passed out of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.
Interstate Medical Licensure Compact – HB 1337. Another top-line WSMA bill, House Bill 1337 would expedite multi-state licensure, facilitating the practice of medicine across state lines and reducing administrative requirements. The bill, a key component of the WSMA Healthy Doctors, Healthier Patients initiative to reduce administrative burden, passed out of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee on a 15-1 vote.
What’s happening this week (Feb. 6-10)
The following bills are scheduled for hearings this week:
Medicaid primary care reimbursement rate – SB 5471. This WSMA-supported bill raises the Medicaid primary care rates to at least 100 percent of Medicare.
Telemedicine – SB 5436 and SB 5457. Senate Bill 5436 defines “home” as “any location determined by the individual receiving the service.” Senate Bill 5457 is a parity bill that requires telemedicine to be paid at a parity to services provided in person. WSMA supports both bills.
Disability parking permits – HB 1515 / SB 5195. The WSMA introduced these bills to reduce administrative requirements by allowing health care practitioners to authorize disability parking permits more appropriately. Another key bill for the WSMA Healthy Doctors, Healthier Patients initiative to reduce administrative burden.
Foundational public health services – HB 1432 / SB 5353. These WSMA-supported bills would, among other things, create a “core public health services account,” allocating funds to deliver measurable outcomes in areas including disease control and prevention, maternal and family health, behavioral health and more.
Distracted driving – SB 5289 / HB 1371. This WSMA-supported legislation would prohibit the use of personal electronic devices while driving (with certain exemptions).
Tobacco 21 – SB 5025. This is the Senate companion bill to HB 1054, which passed out of committee last week.
Notable bills not yet scheduled:
Health care directives – SB 5478 / HB 1640. This WSMA-supported legislation would allow Washington state’s health care directive to be notarized in place of witnessing.
Practice of naturopathy – SB 5369. This WSMA-opposed bill would increase naturopaths’ scope of practice by granting full prescriptive authority for drugs in schedule III–V, subject to education and training requirements to be established by the Board of Naturopathy.
Bills addressing abortion – HBs 1003, 1775, 1776 and SB 5320. All of these bills would place restrictions on an abortion, whether by requiring parental notification, criminalization, or establishing reporting requirements for intended abortions. The WSMA has policy against these limitations on abortion, and therefore opposes these bills.
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