Washington State House Democrats


Health care fixes and improvements from Rep. Riccelli head to governor’s desk

Healthy Children, Healthy Families initiative cornerstone of Spokane legislator’s service

 Washington State Legislative Sup
Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, at the signing of HB 1285, relating to screening newborns for critical congenital heart disease

OLYMPIA – A long legislative session is coming to an end with some major victories in the field of health care from initiatives brought forth by State Representative Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, who has made his “Healthy Children, Healthy Families” initiative a cornerstone of his career.

Riccelli introduced two pieces of legislation, HB 1285 and 2021, which passed both the House and Senate and have been sent to Governor Inslee for his approval, and HB 1559 the WSU Medical School bill which has already been signed into law.

“Making sure families have access to care is a top priority for me as an elected official. When we fail to identify serious medical issues, or neglect to fix holes in our system, we are failing our constituents. We can do better, and we must. These bills will help us correct problems and prevent unnecessary harm,” said Rep. Riccelli, who is a father to two small children.

HB 1285 – Requires all newborns in Washington to be screened for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD) using pulse oximetry. CCHD affects nearly 1 in 100 infants. Early detection and intervention is critical for a good health outcome for these infants.

HB 2021 – Helps uninsured and underinsured patients access low-cost prescription medications. The Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation, which started in Spokane, has been helping uninsured people access low-cost drugs for the past decade. The passage of the Affordable Care Act has cut down the ranks of the uninsured, but many people still cannot afford the high cost of prescription drugs. This bill will expand eligibility for prescription drug assistance so that more people can access the life-saving medicine they need.

“The purpose of the Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation has always been to increase patients’ access to the medicine they need. Increasingly, it is not just the uninsured that cannot afford medicine; even many people with insurance are struggling to pay for prescriptions,” said Dr. Sam Selinger, founder and former Chair of the Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation. “This thoughtful legislation, supported by health care providers, elected officials, and industry, will be a big help to the many patients across the state that need help accessing medications.”

While some legislation did not pass both chambers, Rep. Riccelli did secure funding for major initiatives in the Democratic budget and hopes to see that funding remain in the final budget. Those initiatives include his “Apple a Day” and the Bright Futures programs.

“The ‘Apple a Day’ funding, if enacted by my colleagues, will provide grants to schools across Washington to upgrade their kitchen equipment and begin serving healthier and more nutritious meals to our kids,” said Riccelli. “Kids need healthy food to thrive in school. Getting our kids on the path to healthy lifestyles starts with eating right. This can make a lifelong difference for kids and save us billions down the road in health care costs.”

The Bright Futures funding would provide Medicaid patients between ages of six months to two years old five separate screenings for Autism and developmental disabilities. While private insurers are required to cover these screenings, Medicaid does not. Providing the screenings is expected to save the state money in the long term, as studies show that 30 percent of children whose developmental issues are identified and treated early do not need special education services by age 3.

“These screenings are a proven medical best practice that we know will make a huge difference in the lives of these children,” said Dr. Lelach Rave, a trustee of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We know we can do a better job addressing development disabilities in children the sooner we identify them, and these screenings are a crucial tool. We want to ensure that every child has the chance to receive this care, including those on Apple Health for Kids and Medicaid.”

The governor signed HB 1285 in to law today and is expected to sign HB 2021 later this week. Final budget negotiations are ongoing.