Six updates from Washington’s legislature

Washington’s legislature is meeting for its 2022 session, so we’re checking in on several bills which State of Reform has been covering. These bills range from addressing the WA Cares Fund to boosting the behavioral health workforce. 

On prescription drugs, SSB 5532, which would create an prescription drug affordability board, was approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee of Feb. 7 with a do-pass recommendation. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, who spoke with State of Reform in November about her intention to introduce the bill. 

 

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The bill was approved on partisan lines, with 14 voting for it, nine against, and one without a recommendation. All the no votes came from Republicans. 

Perhaps one of the most polarizing pieces of legislation right now is HB 1868, which would create minimum staffing levels in hospitals, and mandate meal and rest breaks, as well as penalties for hospitals that choose to ignore them. The bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 7, and is now in the Rules Committee. 

The legislation is supported by Washington Safe and Healthy, a coalition of nurses unions, which say the minimum staffing levels are needed to support and retain nurses who have been overworked during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington State Hospital Association opposes the bill, saying it will increase health care costs. 

Sens. Judy Warnick and Manka Dhingra partnered to sponsor SB 5807, which would coordinate behavioral health programs available to families with members in behavioral health systems through a Bureau of Family Experience. Warnick spoke about the bill in an interview from January. 

A bill designed to exempt a manufacturer of some dialysate and dialysis devices from the pharmacy practices act and legend drug act passed the House in late January. SHB 1675 was referred to the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee on Feb. 1. 

Finally, implementation of the Long Term Care Act was put on ice for 18 months after HB 1732 was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on Jan. 27. The bill halts implementation of the act, and payroll tax, giving lawmakers time to work through concerns around equitable implementation. 

The battle over the act will likely continue next year, as Republicans have called for an outright repeal