A Busy Time in Olympia

It’s been a busy time in policy circles in the last few weeks.  Here are a few things to keep your eye on this week.

1.  The House budget was passed out of Ways and Means over the weekend, and the Senate budget is set to release their budget tomorrow.  It appears all of the critical access hospital cuts are back in the Senate version, one of the sessions most discussed policy issues.

2.  The exchange bill appears likely to move this week.  While industry leaders are still concerned about the bill, those advocates concerned particularly with the ‘working poor’ are gearing up strongly.  From one such lobbyist this past week:  “Whatever we can do to get people better coverage, we support.”

3.  On Wednesday, the HCA hopes to execute contracts with plans which were successful in the recent Healthy Options/SSI/BHP procurement process.  We expect there will be legal action this week as well from plans that have raised concerns through the process.  One plan, CUP, ran a 2-page spread advertisement in The Columbian on Sunday, and again today in the Olympian.  1400 names there including some of the leading medical groups in Clark County, and all of the Clark County legislative delegation.

4.  In case you missed it, last week saw the Tacoma city council take an unusual step of reducing the tax break afforded to large non-profits (ie: hospitals).  This caught a lot of attention, including Tom Curry, CEO of WSMA, in his weekly Monday Memo this morning in what he said “may be a harbinger of more to come”.

“Benefits of the long-standing tax exempt status of the Tacoma’s two hospital system took a hit last week. It may be a harbinger of more to come elsewhere in the state. The action: The Tacoma City Council reduced a 60-year-old tax exemption that shielded non-profit health-care providers from the city’s business tax. The measure, which will take effect March 5, is aimed at the MultiCare and Franciscan health systems. The council’s unanimous vote cuts the long-standing 100% city tax exemption to 75 percent, adding an estimated $538,000 to beleaguered city coffers.”