OLYMPIA — A bill to regulate hospital and health system mergers and preserve community access to comprehensive medical care was filed in the Senate this week. 

The Keep Our Care Act, sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), prohibits hospitals from merging if the consolidation diminishes patients’ access to services — including reproductive, end-of-life and gender-affirming care — by creating a system of public oversight that ensures people’s needs are prioritized over corporate growth. If passed, it would only apply to future consolidations that receive authorization from the state attorney general. 

Randall said health entity mergers and acquisitions not only restrict access to critical services but drive up costs and reduce the quality of care, disproportionately harming low-income and rural communities, people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals and terminally ill patients.  

“Everyone deserves access to the quality, affordable care they need to thrive regardless of who they are or where they live,” Randall said. “Our own community has seen firsthand the negative effects of mergers, with many neighbors forced to travel several hours just for services and to find secular health care where they feel comfortable receiving treatment. By strengthening oversight and transparency, we can make sure health systems are held accountable and prioritize community needs, not a religious directive or financial bottom line.” 

Senate Bill 5241 also prevents hospital conglomerates from getting too large, which has been shown to hurt health care workers in addition to diminishing patient care access, as mergers often result in staff and budget cuts, leading to serious operational challenges. 

“Arguments will be made that consolidations help save money, but from what we know locally and nationwide, that simply isn’t true,” Randall added. “We’ve made great strides in recent years to ensure Washington remains a leader in health care access, from Medicaid expansion to increased reproductive protections — yet there are still critical gaps in our systems that we must close. The Keep Our Care Act will help preserve equitable access to the care we need when and where we need it.” 

The bill has been referred to the Senate Law & Justice Committee. Follow its progress here.