Washington Physicians Fought Successfully for Patient Access to Care and Patient Safety Legislation

Apr 11, 2012, 17:45 ET from Washington State Medical Association

Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) Wraps-up Successful Session in Olympia

OLYMPIA, Wash., April 11, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- After a long and turbulent legislative session, the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) successfully fought to preserve programs that were on the cutting block and promote legislation that would benefit patients, including access to quality care and patient safety.

"This was a difficult session because there were many tough choices that had to be made because of the budget situation," said Douglas Myers, M.D., president of the WSMA. "As physicians we are dedicated to protecting our patients and delivering quality care. We worked hard to advocate for or against legislation in the best interests of our members and their patients."

Highlights include:

State's Zero Tolerance Policy for Emergency Medicaid Patients Stopped – Working closely with the Washington State Hospital Association and the Washington Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, we were able to prevent implementation of the state's Zero Tolerance Policy that would have denied payment for treating Medicaid patients in the emergency department. The coalition proposed a reasonable alternative plan that was successfully passed in the state's 2012 supplemental operating budget. This new plan will reduce emergency visits by adoption of best practices to include: extensive case management of frequent users, timely follow-up by primary care physicians, controls on narcotic prescribing, and adoption of emergency visit tracking systems. The WSMA was vocal and unwavering in its opposition to the state's original plan to deny payment of emergency services to Medicaid patients because we believe quality patient care and real savings come from clinically-based reforms lead by physicians.

Columbia United Providers (CUP) – The WSMA and a group of other interested stakeholders were successful in getting a proviso placed into the final budget that requires the HCA ensure that any new Medicaid managed care contractor can demonstrate an adequate network of providers prior to final contract. This could potentially provide an opportunity for CUP to be reconsidered. CUP is a locally-owned insurance company that has been successfully providing Medicaid services for 18 years to nearly 47,000 patients in Clark County with great success and cooperation from the physician community in the county.

Volunteer Retired Physicians Program (VRP) – This valuable program was spared the cutting block. Each year volunteer physicians and healthcare professionals serve 67,000 low-income patients in Washington state, providing services worth $82 million. The VRP provides necessary malpractice insurance for volunteer physicians.

Interpreter Services – More than 19,000 patients each month use interpreter services to communicate with their physicians. Cuts to this important program were avoided.

Health Insurance Exchange – By 2014 healthcare reform is to be fully rolled out, including having operational health insurance exchanges in all 50 states. The WSMA was successful in getting acceptable language included in the Exchange bill on the Federal Basic Health Plan (Federal BHP) option that would ensure physicians are able to adequately care for these populations and protect patient access to care. The added criteria would evaluate adequacy of funding, adequacy of provider networks, and payments to physicians to create robust networks and adequate enrollee access. Implementation of this reform may change depending on how the Supreme Court rules on health care reform later this year.

Basic Health Program – Basic Health is a state-sponsored program providing health insurance coverage to low-income families in Washington state. The program retained funding through 2013.

Disability Lifeline -- The Disability Lifeline program covers temporarily disabled people who can't qualify for Medicaid. This program also avoided cuts.

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 206-794-4706.


SOURCE Washington State Medical Association