January marks the begin­ning of the 2018 legisla­tive session. During this short, 60-day session, WSNA is focused on nurse educa­tion funding, public health funding, securing uninter­rupted meal and rest breaks, ending surprise medical billing, addressing the opioid epidemic and expanding access to mental health services.

Our top priority #

Rest breaks #

WSNA is contin­uing our efforts to pass HB 1715, which requires nurses and other health care workers be provided with uninter­rupted meal and rest breaks – allowing nurses to provide the highest quality patient care. Addition­ally, HB 1715 closes the manda­tory overtime loophole by clari­fying that employers may not use presched­uled on-call time to fill chronic or foresee­able vacan­cies due to staff short­ages. We know that nurses who work shifts of 12.5 hours or longer are three times more likely to miss things – putting patients at risk.

Budget priorities #

Nurse education funding #

Support new schol­ar­ship and loan repay­ment programs for providers, including adding advance practice health profes­sion degrees to the Washington State Oppor­tu­nity Schol­ar­ship program. Provider short­ages affect everyone. When there are not enough health care providers, health access is limited, costs go up and wait times increase. Schol­ar­ship and loan repay­ment programs help rural and under­served commu­ni­ties by incen­tivizing providers to locate there – and these programs help provide finan­cial stability for nurses.

Public health funding #

In the 2017 state legisla­tive session, the legis­la­ture provided a new, one-time $12 million invest­ment in core public health services. This seed money is essen­tial to support Founda­tional Public Health Services, especially as it strug­gles to address the spiking rates of commu­ni­cable disease across our state. While this new invest­ment is helpful, it is a drop in the bucket toward adequately funding Washington’s public health system to ensure it can track, respond to and prevent disease outbreaks.

Policy priorities #

Surprise billing (medical debt) #

Surprise medical billing happens when a patient is treated at a health care facility that is in her health plan’s network, but may unexpect­edly receive services or see certain providers that are out of her health plan’s network – resulting in a surprise medical bill for the out-of-network rate. These unexpected charges can amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars. This bill would ensure that patients pay in-network rates at in-network facil­i­ties, even when being treated by an out-of-network provider in an Emergency Depart­ment or surgical facility.

Address the opioid crisis / secure medicine return #

In 2018, WSNA will support bills to further prevent, and provide treat­ment for, opioid addic­tion in our commu­ni­ties. Addition­ally, WSNA will continue to support House Bill 1047 which estab­lishes a statewide secure medicine return program (sometimes referred to as drug take-back). These programs are currently being imple­mented in a number of counties and reduce risks of medicine poison­ings, misuse, and overdoses by providing a conve­nient way for residents to dispose of old or unused medicines.

Access to mental health services (Volk decision) #

A year ago, the Washington State Supreme Court issued a 6 – 3 decision in Volk v. DeMeer­leer that changed the standard for duty to warn” previ­ously estab­lished in Washington state and nation­ally. SB 5800 would return to the standard estab­lished before the Volk decision: to require that a mental health profes­sional providing mental health services to a patient has a duty to warn about a patient’s violent behavior only if the patient has made an actual threat of physical violence against an identi­fi­able victim – ensuring that mental health profes­sionals do not change their practice, resulting in either a chilling effect on the willing­ness to treat severely mentally ill patients or an increase in invol­un­tary treat­ment commitments.