5 Things Washington: Rx affordability board, Topical Agenda, Committee Assembly Days

Just a few short months stand between us and the start of the 2022 legislative session on January 10. With that in mind, this edition of “5 Things We’re Watching” features three conversations with three state legislators on the policy we can expect to see in the upcoming session. We also have a look ahead to next week’s Committee Assembly Days, which will tee up the conversations that will be top of mind when lawmakers reconvene.

Emily Boerger
Managing Editor
State of Reform

 

1. Q&A: Sen. Manka Dhingra discusses BH

Despite 2022 being a short legislative session where lawmakers will primarily look to refine existing policy, Sen. Manka Dhingra says we can expect to see new legislation aimed at supporting the behavioral health workforce. Dhingra, who chairs the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee, is specifically looking at loan repayment options, retention efforts, apprenticeship programs, and ways to utilize certified peers and behavioral health support specialists.

She says it’s particularly important to support the BH workforce after last year’s “record investments” in behavioral health. “A lot of those grant dollars for these programs haven’t been used because agencies are saying they don’t have the workforce for it. Which is really unfortunate, because people have been wanting these dollars for such a long time.” Dhingra also says to be on the lookout for policy that addresses coercive control and bills related to assisted outpatient treatment options next year.

 

2. Expect Rx affordability board legislation in 2022

After clearing the legislature and getting vetoed by the governor in 2020 over its price tag, a prescription drug affordability board bill is likely to be reintroduced in the upcoming session, says Sen. Karen Keiser. Keiser plans to bring the bill back in 2022 and says it will likely be a stronger piece of legislation than the original bill.

The bill from 2020 would have created a five-member board which would identify and conduct cost reviews on prescription drugs that exceed certain cost and cost growth parameters. Keiser says the bill she brings forth will allow the drug affordability board to apply upper payment limits in Washington State, which she says will put the market back into a competitive place. If the bill authorizing the board is approved during the 2022 session, Keiser hopes to have it up and running by March 2023.

 

3. ICYMI: Topical Agenda now available

In case you missed it, on Tuesday we released the Topical Agenda for the 2022 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference coming up on January 6. It’s a set of topics pulled together from scores of hours of conversations with our Convening Panel, key stakeholders, and sponsors. We’ll be exploring politics and policy in health care, discussing the behavioral health system, and diving deep into workforce challenges, the social determinants, and lessons learned from the pandemic.

You can view the Topical Agenda here for a sense of the conversations we have teed up, and if you have suggestions for speakers let us know. If you haven’t already registered, we’d be honored to have you join us!

4. Committee days start next week!

Lawmakers will reconvene next week for Committee Assembly Days. Each year ahead of session, legislators meet for interim briefings with staff. This gives lawmakers a chance to get familiarized with the issues likely to come up during session – including several of the topics featured in this edition of “5 Things.”

We have our eye on several meetings including the Nov. 15 meeting of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee, which will focus on health care workforce challenges facing the state, and the Nov. 16 Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee meeting, which will feature reports and recommendations from three BH work groups. The House Health Care & Wellness Committee will convene on the 18th for a discussion on rural health financing, health care cost transparency, and pharmaceutical purchasing initiatives.

5. A conversation on child care with Rep. Dent

For Rep. Tom Dent, the number one issue facing child care facilities in Washington State is regulations – an issue he’s planning to address during session. Dent is the ranking minority member on the House Children, Youth and Families Committee and is thinking of ways to address the state’s shortage of child care providers. According to one estimate, during the pandemic at least 13% of child care facilities across the state were forced to permanently close.

“We need to sit down with a sharp pencil and eraser and go to the regulations, all the rules that regulate child care, and decide which are appropriate and which ones are not,” says Dent. Specifically, he says he’s drafting a bill to adjust child-to-teacher ratios to encourage larger class sizes. He’s also hoping to create more flexibility in facility size requirements.