Olympia - It's proven a common divide in too many state legislatures across the country this year - the conjunction of 'healthcare' and 'reform' grinding government to a halt.
But it’s different here in Washington State.
For over a year, state legislators from both parties and from both chambers have met on a regular basis to discuss strategies on federal health reform implementation. The bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Health Reform Implementation was so effective, legislators voted again this year to continue and even expand its work.
The fruits of their labor, a package of six implementation bills, with three more on the way, were signed in to law today.
Senate Bill 5122 - Aligns the state's insurance statute to requirements in the federal reform law. Doing so allows insurance coverage for dependents up to 26 years of age and removes the lifetime benefit cap.
Senate Bill 5371 – Ends pre-existing condition exclusions and health screenings for insurance coverage for persons less than 19 years of age.
House Bill 1311 – Requires all state-purchased health care programs to implement certain evidence-based practice guidelines or strategies.
Senate Bill 5394 - Expands access to health care through a primary care portal. This bill marks a shift of the state’s focus from a fee for service basis to evidence based purchasing – a method proven to increase outcomes and decrease costs.
House Bill 1220 - Requires insurers to provide increased levels of transparency on insurance rate filings to consumers. This bill implements the new federal requirements and then goes further, by requiring transparency to the public for all filings.
Senate Bill 5445 – Creates a healthcare exchange as required under the ACA. If a state fails to establish an exchange by 2014, the federal government will. The exchange will function as an online marketplace for consumers to compare and purchase insurance plans.
Senator Karen Keiser, D-Kent, chair of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee, sponsored several of the bills and attended the bill signing.
Said Keiser, “Each of these bills tie together to create a new and better way to deliver health care in Washington state. Together, these cut costs, improve outcomes, and expand access.”
Keiser emphasized that there is work yet to be done.
“That these bills are now law is critical for all Washingtonians, but it does not mark the end of our efforts,” Said Keiser. “This is the beginning of a protracted conversation with the public about our priorities as a state.”
“Washington residents want leaders focused on expanding access to healthcare and working to increase quality – not getting bogged down in partisan bickering.”
“While our federal appeals court continues to hear arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act, we continue to move forward and do so on all fronts.”
“To make the most out of our federal assistance and to help the most Washingtonians the best, we need to keep moving forward. Thanks to these and other future efforts, come 2014, we will stand ready for full implementation of health reform.”
For more information, Michael Althauser, 360-786-7326