Washington Senate Ways and Means Committee passes numerous health bills as deadline for legislation with fiscal impact passes


Shane Ersland


Friday marked an important deadline in the Washington legislative session, as bills with fiscal impact had to be passed out of their original committee.


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“Non-budget bills that haven’t cleared a fiscal [committee] by the end of Friday are left on the cutting room floor,” Gov. Jay Inslee stated in his Friday newsletter. “Exceptions can be made if a legislator convinces legislative leaders their bill is ‘necessary to implement the budget’ and not subject to cutoff. These are referred to as ‘NTIB bills’ and the arguments for this designation can become quite creative.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Committee on Appropriations both had numerous bills lined up for executive sessions to end the week. Appropriations had 40 bills scheduled for executive session on Friday, while Ways and Means had 56. Ways and Means also had 55 bills scheduled for executive session on Thursday.

Ways and Means passed several health-related bills last week:

Senate Bill 5213 would impose certain requirements on pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) business practices. The bill was hotly debated during a Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee meeting on Feb. 3rd. SB 5213 includes several PBM mandates, including the restriction of PBMs from denying, restricting, or reducing drug payments to a participating provider for a medically necessary, provider-administered drug on the basis that the provider has obtained the drug from a wholesaler or pharmacy.

SB 5582 would reduce barriers and expand educational opportunities to increase the state’s nurse workforce. Washington State Nurses Association Director of Government Affairs Katharine Weiss said the bill would help with the recruitment of nurses to facilities in rural communities. 

SB 5454 would exclude direct care registered nurses from the Department of Labor and Industries rule that claims based on mental conditions or mental disabilities caused by stress do not fall within the definition of occupational disease for workers’ compensation purposes.

SB 5228 would allow managed care organizations and behavioral health administrative service organizations to provide occupational therapy services to clients who have behavioral health disorders. It would require the state’s Medicaid program to reimburse behavioral health agencies for the medically necessary occupational therapy needs of their clients.

SB 5095 would direct the Department of Health (DOH) and an advisory committee to establish at least three two-year-long Rx health and wellness pilot programs in the Puget Sound, eastern Washington, and southwest Washington.

SB 5278 would allow the DOH more discretion for the preparation, grading, and administration of the home care aide certification examination. It would also address delays between training and testing, the lack of test sites, and performance and contract management processes.

SB 5302 would expand the property tax exemption for housing for eligible individuals with developmental disabilities when housing is provided indirectly through lease, sublet, or service agreement with a provider operating an adult family home, regardless of the nonprofit status of the adult family home provider.

SB 5120 would direct DOH to establish 23-hour crisis relief centers, a new type of crisis diversion facility designed to serve people regardless of behavioral health acuity, in Washington. 

SB 5189 would require DOH to establish rules for the certification of behavioral health support specialists, a new type of behavioral health professional certification available to people with a bachelor’s degree who meet other requirements. The HCA would be required to ensure the profession’s services are covered under the Medicaid program. 

SB 5334 would authorize local governments to impose a special excise tax on the furnishing and lodging of short-term rentals to use those revenues for affordable housing programs.

SB 5515 would direct the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to investigate referrals of alleged child abuse or neglect occurring at substance use disorder treatment facilities, entities that provide behavioral health services, and residential private schools. DCYF would determine whether there is a finding for abuse or neglect. 

SB 5393 would prohibit the use of certain provisions in contracts between health carriers and hospitals or hospital affiliates under certain circumstances. The bill aims to increase healthcare affordability by decreasing consolidation and preventing entities from gaining competition-restricting market power through their contracting practices.

SB 5632 would require the Health Benefit Exchange to administer a healthcare premium assistance program for employees who lose employer-provided healthcare coverage as a result of a labor dispute.

SB 5532 would require that Medicaid payments for acute care services be made at 120% of the Medicaid fee schedule for inpatient services and 200% of the Medicaid fee schedule for outpatient services when services are provided by a hospital that meets certain requirements.

SB 5103 would boost payments to acute care hospitals for difficult-to-discharge Medicaid patients. It would permit allowable medically necessary services performed for a patient waiting for discharge from a hospital to be billed by and paid to the hospital separately from the daily rate for any day of a hospital stay for a patient that meets certain qualifications. 

SB 5263 would relate to access to psilocybin services for people who are 21 or older. It would create an interagency workgroup to provide advice and recommendations to an advisory board on developing a comprehensive regulatory framework for a regulated psilocybin system.

The next cutoff date is March 8th, when bills must pass on the debate floor from their chamber of origin. 

“Much of the legislature’s focus will shift next week to floor action,” Inslee’s newsletter states. “Legislators will be working late nights to pass bills out of their house of origin to the other chamber by 5 pm on March 8th.”