Friends, neighbors –
As state senators representing the Kitsap Peninsula, we wanted to take the opportunity to share news about one of your top areas of concerns: health care. We’ve both heard a lot of feedback from you – our friends and neighbors in our districts – about challenges many households face with access to affordable care. We thought it might be helpful to sum up the ways in which we’ve taken huge strides and continue to make progress toward greater accessibility and affordability in the world of health care.
In 2018, the Legislature passed policy that:
- Requires health plans sold in Washington state to cover, with no cost sharing, all preventive services required under federal law as of Dec. 31, 2016.
- Prohibits the sale of firefighting foam that contains chemicals that were found in well water and pose a health threat to the public.
- Requires health plans in our state to cover all types of contraception without cost sharing.
- Requires health care providers to cover the cost of 3-D mammograms, which are superior to traditional mammograms at detecting early stages of cancer than and ensures doctors inform and assist patients with high breast density, a condition that can make it harder to detect early stages of cancer.
In 2019, we passed legislation that:
- Addressed the opioid crisis on multiple fronts and directed state agencies to collaborate on a comprehensive, statewide strategy for treating and preventing opioid use disorder.
- Created the Long-Term Care Trust Act, a program to help families cover some of the costs of long-term care.
- Created a work group to identify and recommend how the state can achieve universal health care.
- Established the nation’s first public option – Cascade Care – an important step in ensuring that all Washingtonians (especially those who don’t have coverage through their employer) can access an affordable coverage option.
- Protected people’s right to certain levels of essential health coverage on any plan under the Affordable Care Act by codifying them into state law.
- Protected patients from surprise medical bills by requiring providers to negotiate and absorb differences in costs between themselves when using out-of-network services.
While we’ve not quite finished session 2020, we’ve heard and voted on great legislation to:
- Control the cost of insulin for Washington families by capping monthly out-of-pocket costs, creating a central purchasing process, and even exploring “pharma tourism” to take advantage of lower prices in Canada.
- Create the Washington Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help curb excessive price spikes in prescription drugs and ensure that they are priced affordably.
- Support nursing home patients and reduce the potential for nursing home closures by increasing skilled nursing Medicaid reimbursement rates.
- Keep premiums stable and health care more affordable by allowing the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to consider an insurance carrier’s surplus money when an insurance carrier applies to raise its premiums.
- Create greater transparency in health care by regulating benefits managers (aka the mysterious middlemen that health insurance companies contract with to reduce costs) while also giving consumers some recourse when they’re having trouble.
- Extend Medicaid coverage to new moms from a meager 60 days to a full year post-partum, strengthening families and ensuring better long-term health for new parents and babies.
- Strengthen local access to health care and support the doctors who provide it by increasing Medicaid primary care reimbursement rates.
As you can see, we’ve been busy working to dismantle barriers and simplify unnecessarily complicated health care access. We are also working to strengthen our foundational public health infrastructure to respond to emerging public health threats, including an additional $10 million to help support local health officials as they plan how to protect the public in the event of a coronavirus outbreak. We are committed to staying at the forefront of quality, accessible health care so that all Washingtonians and their families can flourish.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
All our best,
Emily and Christine