Washington Physicians Fight To Improve Patient Access To Care, Protect Patient Safety, And Improve Quality

Jan 31, 2013, 13:21 ET from Washington State Medical Association

Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) Weighs in on Legislation in Olympia

OLYMPIA, Wash., Jan. 31, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As expected, there are many issues being discussed in the 2013 state legislative session that affect physicians and patients in our state. The Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) is working to make sure the voices of physicians are heard to improve patient access to care, protect patient safety, and improve quality, without putting added burdens on physicians.

"With all of the recent change in the health care system, there has never been a more challenging time to practice medicine," said Nick Rajacich, MD, president of the WSMA. "Physicians must be at the table as these big decisions are being made and implemented because they will have a lasting impact not only on physicians practicing medicine, but on patient access to quality, safe health care. Washington's physicians will continue to fight for our patients."

Here are some issues on which the WSMA is advocating:

Health Benefit Exchange – Our state is currently developing a health benefit exchange—Washington Healthplanfinder—allowing all Washington residents to choose the health plan that is right for them and their families. Individuals whose incomes fall between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify for a federal subsidy to help purchase products on the Exchange. It's estimated that 532,000 Washingtonians would be eligible for federal subsidies to purchase plans through our state's Exchange and that 280,000 people in our state are likely to take advantage of the program by the end of 2014. By 2017, that number could grow to over 470,000. All of these newly-insured patients will need physicians to care for them. WSMA is working to ensure there is access to care through adequate provider networks before these insurance products are offered to the public.

Medicaid Expansion – It is expected that there will be 260,000 new Medicaid enrollees by 2019, an increase of more than 25 percent. The WSMA is working closely with the state legislature and the Health Care Authority to ensure there are adequate provider networks in place as these new patients will need physicians to care for them, and that physicians' reimbursement is not further reduced.

Emergency Room Visits and PMP Funding – Last year the WSMA, the state hospital association and emergency physicians worked together to successfully implement the "Seven Best Practices" to reduce unnecessary emergency room use by Medicaid patients, saving the state $31 million. Part of that success is attributed to widespread participation in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMP) which will run out of funds in July. In the past there have been efforts to fund the program via physician licensure fees. The WSMA will oppose those efforts and instead will propose the Medicaid Fraud Account as a dedicated funding source. We will continue to work with our coalition and the state to broaden our success and make sure physicians are involved in any new policy developments.

Contracting Fairness – WSMA will introduce legislation to require an affirmative response from the physician to any material changes in provider contracts. In addition, the WSMA supports legislation that prohibits tying physician licensure with participation in any third-party insurance programs, including state health care programs.

Degree and Training Transparency –The WSMA believes that all healthcare professionals should clearly and accurately identify themselves to patients. Many healthcare professionals can earn advanced degrees that carry the title "doctor," including doctor of physical therapy, doctor of nursing, doctor of psychology, doctor of audiology, doctor of naturopathy, doctor of chiropractic, doctor of optometry and more. The WSMA will support legislation for full disclosure to patients of a doctor's professional degree and training.

Budget and Delivery System Reform – The WSMA is a proactive participant in advocating for other changes, including:

  • Further adoption of the advanced medical home concept
  • Defending against cuts to physician payment by state health care programs
  • Ensuring expiration of the physician B&O tax.

"Having a strong voice in Olympia representing physicians and physician assistants across Washington state is needed now more than ever," added Dr. Rajacich.

For more information on the Washington State Medical Association or any issues of interest to Washington physicians or patients, please contact Susan Callahan at slc@wsma.org or (206) 956-3651.

SOURCE Washington State Medical Association