Simmons bill to enhance financial support for the Washington Physician Health Program passes on to the Senate

OLYMPIA – A bill to strengthen the Washington Physician Health Program passed the Washington House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon with a vote of 97-0. Sponsored by Rep Tara Simmons (D-Bremerton), House Bill 1972 strengthens the financial support for the WPHP.  The WPHP is a confidential, therapeutic alternative to professional discipline and provides early intervention, assessment, treatment referral, and post-treatment monitoring for health professionals who may not be able to practice safely due to impairing or potentially impairing health conditions such as substance use problems and cognitive and neurological conditions.

“Coming out of a stressful pandemic, our doctors are facing growing mental and behavioral health challenges that are unique to their profession,” said Simmons. “They have been there for our loved ones, caring for their needs and providing expert advice. We need to be there for them as they navigate hurdles brought on by the unique stressors they face.”

The bill, and a companion Senate Bill 5822, seeks to harmonize fee schedules across diverse healthcare disciplines, fostering efficiency and uniformity in financial structures. Periodic adjustments in surcharge fees are highlighted as indispensable to cope with inflationary pressures and secure the long-term sustainability of the Physician Health Program.

During public testimony, advocates emphasize the invaluable role of the Physician ln Health Program in providing confidential and therapeutic services to healthcare practitioners throughout Washington. The proposed fee adjustments are deemed crucial to maintaining the high-quality services offered by the program, ensuring uninterrupted support for practitioners navigating various medical, mental, and behavioral health challenges.

The increased funding will facilitate service expansion, outreach initiatives, and the overall well-being enhancement of healthcare professionals statewide. Failure to implement these adjustments could lead to program cuts, potentially compromising the quality of care extended to practitioners.

HB 1972 passed with a vote of 97-0 today and is now with the Senate for further consideration.