OLYMPIA – The Keep Our Care Act to ensure hospital mergers don’t limit access to critical health care passed the Senate 28-21 on Thursday.
Senate Bill 5241, sponsored by Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), would ensure hospital mergers and acquisitions don’t restrict patients’ access to critical health care, such as end-of-life, reproductive and gender-affirming care.
Research has shown hospital consolidations commonly result in price increases for patients of up to 20% or more.
Washington state has seen multiple consolidations that restrict access to these critical health services, resulting in medically unnecessary hurdles, harmful delays and increased travel times that disproportionately harm low-income and rural communities, people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals and terminally ill patients.
The bill would require the Attorney General’s Office to determine through a public process if a hospital merger would detrimentally affect access to health care.
“Voters have over and over again told us that they want to protect reproductive healthcare,” said Randall. “A right without access is not a right.”
“Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, patients from around the nation rely on states like Washington to provide life-saving abortion and gender-affirming care services,” said Sami Alloy, Interim Executive Director of Pro-Choice Washington. “It is even more essential that we protect these services from disappearing in our state due to unchecked health system consolidations. The Keep Our Care Act will do just that.”
The bill now heads to the House.