Washington Legislative News

The 2009 legislative session in Washington State resulted in the following legislative changes relating to healthcare:

SB 5346 Administration Simplification - effective 7/26/2009

Charges the OIC, the Department of Social and Health Services, the Health Care Authority, and the Department of Labor and Industries to develop and coordinate a streamlined process of health care administration. The efforts shall include the development of a uniform electronic process for collecting and transmitting provider data to support credentialing, admitting privileges, and other processes. The processes adopted shall reduce administrative burden on providers, improve quality and timeliness of information, be interoperable with other relevant systems, and enable use of the data by authorized participants for related applications. Work generally due by December 31, 2010.

SB 5360 Grant Program - effective 7/26/2009

Establishes a community health care collaborative grant program to further the efforts of community-based coalitions to increase access to appropriate, affordable health care for Washington residents, particularly employed low-income persons and children in school who are uninsured and underinsured.

SB 5369 Counseling Professionals - effective 7/1/2009

Amends existing law to include a variety of mental health professionals to the uniform disciplinary act (i.e.: grants the Secretary authority over various health care professions).

SB 5436 Patient-Provider PCP Arrangements - effective 7/26/2009

Amends existing law to allow direct practices to accept fee paid by employer on behalf of an employee; however, the direct practice may not enter into a contract with an employer. Governor vetoed portions of the bill that would have assessed the direct patient-provider PCP arrangements to fund the WA State Health Insurance Pool and required the direct practices to file advertising and marketing materials with OIC for approval.

SB 5501 Exchange of Health Info - effective 7/26/2009

Charges the Administrator of the State Health Care Authority with designating one or more lead organizations to develop processes, guidelines, and standards for the implementation of methods for the secure exchange of clinical data to promote safety, efficiency, and continuity and quality of care. The processes, guidelines, and standards are to be created by December 1, 2011.

SB 5601 Speech-language Pathology Assistants - effective 7/26/2009

Amends existing law to provide regulatory authority over speech-language pathology assistants. Adds language re: tasks allowed to be performed by speech-language pathology assistants. Provides that this bill does not require health carriers to contract with certified speech-language pathology assistants.

SB 5608 Genetic Counselors - effective 8/1/2010

Grants Secretary authority to adopt rules re: licensing of genetic counselors. This law now makes genetic counselors one of the categories which carriers need to allow to perform services (within certain parameters). While the law is effective 8/1/2009, the actual provisions themselves are effective 8/1/2010.

SB 5688 Domestic Partners - effective 7/26/2009

Provides rights to registered domestic partners that are the same as rights for married couples.

SB 5725 Organ Transplants - effective 7/26/2009

Prohibits health benefit plans providing coverage for organ and tissue transplants from establishing a separate lifetime limit on transplants that is less than $350,000. The limit applies from one day prior to the date of the transplant or the date of hospital admission and applies to services through 100 days after the transplant. While the law is effective 7/26/2009, the language must be included in new or renewing plans on or after 1/1/2010.

SB 5731 Distributing Health Info - effective 7/26/2009

Permits carriers to implement alternative methods of communication to ensure enrollee access to plan related information, including, but not limited to, Web site alerts, postcard mailings, and electronic communication in lieu of printed materials.

SB 5777 Washington State Insurance Pool - effective 7/26/2009

Requires notification of eligibility of Medicare Part C coverage if any Medicare eligible person is rejected for medical reasons, has an up-rated premium, or pre-existing limitations. Amends existing law to require certification of the standard health questionnaire every 36 months (up from 18 months). Amends existing law re: who is eligible for the WA State Insurance Pool (generally related to Medicare eligible people).

SB 5891 Medical Home - effective 7/26/2009

Charges the Health Care Authority and the Department of Social and Health Services with the design and implementation of a primary medical home reimbursement project, including payers, carriers, providers, and other third party purchasers. The Act expires 7/1/2013.

SB 5931 Mental Health Counselor Privilege - effective 7/26/2009

Extends privilege to mental health counselors, independent clinical social workers, and marriage and family therapists except in certain circumstances (e.g., with written authorization or to avoid or minimize an imminent danger).

SB 5945 Health Partnership Plan - effective 7/26/2009

Establishes a set of principles for health reform that could occur in the state that include choice, affordability, financial protection, wellness, portability, universality, patient safety, quality and sustainability. Between October 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, the governor must convene an advisory group to review progress on state and federal health reform efforts. The bill requires the state to submit an 1115 demonstration waiver to expand public programs and submit applications for family planning waiver program. Governor partially vetoed SB 5945; removed the advisory group that would have been set up by the bill.

SB 6019 Wellness Programs - effective 7/26/2009

Permits up to a 20% variance for employee health wellness programs when rating small group plans.

HB 1041 Occupational Therapists - effective 7/26/2009

New law authorizing occupational therapists to purchase, store, and administer topical and transdermal medications.

HB 1071 Mandatory 72-hour Stay - effective 7/26/2009

Amends existing law to allow advanced registered nurse practitioners to order mandatory stay for a psychiatric evaluation.

HB 1308 Organ Transplant Waiting Periods - effective 7/26/2009

Requires health benefit plans issued or renewed or on or after 1/1/2010 to reduce waiting periods for organ transplants by the enrollee’s period of creditable coverage. While the law is effective 7/26/2009, the language must be included for plans new or renewing effective 1/1/2010.

HB 1309 Dental Hygiene - effective 7/1/2009

Expands the scope of practice for dental hygienists by permitting licensed hygienist having two years’ practical clinical experience with a licensed dentist within the preceding five years to perform authorized dental hygiene operations and services without supervision under a lease agreement with a health care facility or senior center.

HB 1401 Health Questionnaire - effective 7/26/2009

Amends existing law to state that a person seeking a policy of individual insurance or the basic health plan due to a change of employment that would qualify the person to obtain continuation coverage, but the person’s employer was exempt from the requirement to offer coverage, that individual would not be required to complete the standard health questionnaire if the application is made within 90 days of the qualifying event causing loss of coverage and the person had at least 24 months of continuous group coverage prior to the loss of coverage.

HB 1414 Health Care Assistants - effective 7/26/2009

Amends existing law to allow health care assistants to administer certain drugs.

HB 1529 Telemedicine - effective 7/26/2009

Permits the use of telemedicine for home health care services provided under public assistance programs.

HB 1566 State of Emergency - effective 7/26/2009

Amends existing law to grant authority to the Commissioner, when the Governor proclaims a state of emergency, to issue an order addressing a variety of items, including reporting requirements for claims, grace periods for payment of insurance premiums, temporary postponement of cancellations, and medical coverage to ensure access to care.

HB 1568 Producers - effective 7/1/2009

Includes new reasons why the Commissioner can suspend a license. Amends existing law about surplus line brokers. Amends existing law re: license application process and continuing education requirements.

HB 1740 Dentist Licenses - effective 5/4/2009

Amends existing law to allow for limited licenses to be issued to postdoctoral students.

HB 1869 Transparency of Health Care Cost Info - effective 7/26/2009

Requires health care providers and facilities to, upon request, provide a patient with an estimate of fees and charges related to services or hospital stays and information regarding other types of fees and charges the patient may receive.

HB 2025 Sharing Health Care Info - effective 7/26/2009

Requires mental health care providers and health care professionals providing care to patients or to whom a patient has been referred to assure coordinated patient care, consistent with requirements of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. The bill specifies that psychotherapy notes may not be released without patient authorization.

HB 2052 Health Insurance Partnership - effective 7/26/2009

Amends existing law to delay implementation of the health insurance partnership (originally scheduled to offer coverage no later than 3/1/2009). New date is 1/1/2011, if there is sufficient state or federal funding.

HB 2105 Diagnostic Imaging Services - effective 4/28/2009

Requires the Washington Health Care Authority to convene a work group to analyze and identify evidence-based best practice guidelines or protocols applicable to diagnostic imaging services. Requires all state purchased health care programs, no later than September 1, 2009, to implement evidence-based best practice guidelines and protocols relating to diagnostic imaging services.

HB 2160 Wellness Incentives - effective 7/26/2009

Clarifies that wellness program established by health carriers and disability insurers do not constitute impermissible rebating.

You'll find more information on recent insurance laws and regulations on the Washington Insurance Commissioner's Web site.





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Last updated 6/18/2009