Keynote: A four-corner discussion on the 2022 legislative session

Four leaders from the state’s legislature joined us for the lunch keynote during the 2022 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference to discuss issues ranging from the long-term care fund act to the budget surplus. 

 

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Representing legislative Democrats were Sen. David Frockt, vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Eileen Cody, chair of the House Health and Wellness Committee. Representing Republicans were Sen. John Braun, minority leader of the Washington State Senate, and Rep. JT Wilcox, House minority leader. 

All four said they would like to see at least some in-person legislating in Olympia this year. In-person legislating creates better bills, Wilcox said. During recent sessions he thought the public safety and WA Cares Fund legislation weren’t the best legislation for the state, and that in-person deliberation would better serve the lawmakers as they draft and pass bills. 

Frockt’s views differed on the public safety and WA Cares Fund bills. He said his caucus believes the fund has a beneficial goal of providing long-term care for people that the market has failed to provide long-term care insurance for. However, there are issues that Democrats want to work through, and he supports delaying implementation until they can be fixed. 

“Clearly, there were some things that needed to be addressed,” Frockt said. 

On the police bills, he said the legislature will allow for some different standards when dealing with involuntary treatment, and address other issues that need attention. 

On children’s mental health, Frockt said they will try to provide more outpatient options and to integrate behavioral health into pediatric primary care visits. 

Cody said with the revenue surplus the state is experiencing, they will be investing more into behavioral health. The legislature has worked in a bipartisan manner on behavioral health, but the issue is difficult to address. 

“We really need to help build that system and make it a better one,” Cody said. 

She’s also considering using some of the revenue surplus to continue hazard pay, including for long-term care workers in nursing homes and home care. Money could also be put towards addressing workforce shortages by investing into training. 

Braun said addressing workforce shortages would likely be a priority this session as well.