WSMA Statement on State Budget Proposals Offered by the House and Senate

The Washington State Medical Association is pleased that in the state budget proposals offered by the House of Representatives and in the Senate last week, both include funding that will benefit Washington patients and the state’s physician community.

 

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Our state’s public health system has been pushed to the tipping point, after years of underfunding and the SARS-COV-2 pandemic. The WSMA is very encouraged that the House and Senate budget proposals appropriately prioritize public health by including funding for Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS). Both budgets propose significant investments, with the House dedicating $100 million and the Senate at $150 million over the next two years. The Senate also earmarks a $300 million appropriation in the 2023-25 budget cycle.

Another important priority being addressed in both budget proposals is increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care, behavioral health, and certain pediatric services—a positive first step in addressing Medicaid reimbursement more broadly. The rate adjustments are similar to those that were passed by the Legislature in 2020 but vetoed by Governor Inslee due to state budget concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Restoring the Medicaid rate adjustments will improve access to care for Washingtonians by expanding physician participation in Medicaid networks at a time when it is desperately needed and long overdue.

These proposed investments in Medicaid and public health are critical and will begin to shore up an ailing health care environment for patients and physicians. To put them in perspective: A 2018 assessment by the state Department of Health, state Board of Health, local health jurisdictions, sovereign tribal nations, and Indian health programs estimated that fully funding foundational public health services would cost $450 million per biennium budget. And, particularly with many of our state’s rural and disadvantaged communities facing shortages of physician specialists, the WSMA supports investments in Medicaid reimbursement for all physician specialties, to help ensure practices can remain economically viable and available to provide care for program enrollees.

Taken together, Medicaid reimbursement and FPHS represent years of advocacy and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars that will benefit patients and the physician community across the state. And it comes on top of the more than $1 billion in pandemic response, funding for behavioral health investments, improvements to the social safety net, and numerous other positive provisions.

The WSMA urges lawmakers and the governor to prioritize these investments in Medicaid and public health as they work to reconcile the two chambers’ proposals and finalize the budget in the weeks ahead. Washington’s patients and physicians need a health care system that is itself healthy and able to tend to health care needs before they become crises, and these investments are steps in the right direction.

This press release was provided by the Washington State Medical Association.