Dear friends and neighbors,
By the time this newsletter lands in your inbox, we’ll have reached a critical deadline in the state legislature. It’s called “House of Origin Cutoff.” This is the deadline by which bills must be voted out of the chamber in which they were originally introduced. House bills making this cutoff are now being considered by the Senate, and Senate bills are now making their way through the House.
In the days leading up to this deadline, several important health care bills were voted on and advanced by the House. I’m excited to share these bills with you in this newsletter.
Also, a reminder that on Saturday, March 23rd, I’ll be hosting a town hall meeting together with Rep. Jake Fey and Sen. Jeannie Darneille at the Eastside Community Center. We’re hoping for a strong turnout and look forward to answering your questions about the issues state lawmakers are working on. I hope to see you there.
Cascade Care: Moving closer to affordable health coverage for all
Our state has made significant increases in the number of people with health care coverage. But too many working families and individuals still struggle to afford health care for themselves and their families. Currently, 70,000 people in Washington state have health plans with a deductible of $9,000 or more. That’s neither affordable nor acceptable.
Last week, we moved closer to improved access to affordable health care by passing HB 1523, known as Cascade Care. It creates a series of up to three standardized health plans per tier provided on the state health benefit exchange. Cascade Care plans will be designed and procured by the state in an effort to bring stability to the marketplace along with usability, lower cost, and better value for consumers.
The people of Washington state have been saying they want access to affordable health care for all, and this bill is what’s going to bring it to our state. I was a strong “yes” vote when it passed the House last Friday.
Network adequacy bill passes!
In a previous e-newsletter, I mentioned my bill, HB 1099, which would give consumers more transparency about the health care plan they’re considering for themselves and their families. I sponsored this bill because a lack of network adequacy failed an amazing young man named Brennan.
Brennan had what his mom Rachel Smith assured him was top-notch health care that covered treatment for the behavioral health crisis he was experiencing. Sadly, he was not able to access that treatment soon enough. He had a 29-day wait for the first available appointment; four days before that scheduled appointment, Brennan took his own life.
Under HB 1099, health carriers would be required to post information on their websites like when a provider in their network is no longer accepting patients, the number of days in which a patient is entitled to an appointment with a mental health or substance use provider, how a patient can complain if they’re not receiving timely access, and information on complaints filed against the insurer relating to these access issues.
Additionally, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner is required to publish an annual report regarding complaints received about access to behavioral health services.
Rachel was in the House chambers when the bill passed last week, and we shared an emotional moment afterwards in the House wings. I strongly believe the information this bill provides will help people in the decision-making process when choosing the health care plan that’s right for their family.
Here’s a short video I recorded right after the bill passed.
Prescription drug access & affordability
Prescription drug cost transparency
No one should have to decide whether to put food on the table or pay for their prescription drugs. Yet the rising cost of needed medications are forcing too many Washingtonians to make that awful choice. That’s why I’m a co-sponsor of HB 1224, which cleared the House last week.
It requires reporting by drug manufacturers on drugs that increase in price, and the justification for the increase. There is overwhelming public support for requiring drug companies to be more transparent about how they decide on prices. This bill is an important step toward improved transparency and price control, and I am hopeful the Senate will agree.
Improving the prior authorization process for certain prescriptions
It didn’t make the headlines, but I’m especially happy that HB 1879 passed the House last week. This bill I sponsored makes improvements to the way some patients with chronic diseases or unique health challenges can access the drug that’s most effective for their condition.
Often, the prior authorization process means following a “fail first” strategy, in which the patient has to show that a substitute drug preferred by their health plan is not effective before they can get approval for the drug their provider has actually prescribed. This strategy can delay treatment and have adverse effects on the patient.
My bill provides an exemption process that is clear and accessible, and ensures decisions about prescription utilization management by health plans are based on clinical evidence, not on cost. These changes will improve patient safety and help people get the treatments they need sooner.
Paging slot still available for 2019 session!
Each year, my office sponsors a certain number of student pages. Serving as a legislative page is a great opportunity for youth ages 14-16 to learn firsthand how our state government works. Students serve for one week in the House and applications can be completed online. I still have a paging slot open for the 2019 legislative session, which runs through April. Click here to learn more about the page program, and click here to fill out an application.
A scholarship is available to help offset the costs of living in Olympia for the week. Click here for more information.