We are fighting for measures to make medical treatment, ground ambulance services, and health insurance more affordable.
Policies We Are Supporting
There isn’t one solution to fixing our health care system.
That’s why we need a multi-pronged approach.
Increasing Oversight to Lower Health Care Costs
This bill would increase the capacity of the state’s Health Care Cost Transparency Board (the Board) to investigate where our health care dollars are going and take steps to limit excess spending by health care players like hospital chains, investor-backed provider groups, and insurance companies. In the 2023 session, there was significant support for this bill, which passed the House but didn’t pass in the Senate. However, another bill passed that gives the Board rulemaking authority and the final budget allocates funds for more staff to support the Board’s important work.
- Fact sheet
- How profit and self-interest are ruining our health care system, a view from Don Berwick. Salve Lucrum: The Existential Threat of Greed in US Health Care, Journal of the American Medical Association, January 31, 2023.
- Hear how a visit to Providence Everett’s emergency room resulted in a $1,950 bill after insurance. How Nonprofit Hospitals Put Patients Over Profits, The New York Times, The Daily, January 25, 2023.
Improve Ground Ambulance Billing Practices
Washington state prohibits “surprise” balance billing in most scenarios. That is when a patient receives a bill from an out-of-network provider for extra charges that are not covered by insurance. But ground ambulance services are not covered by existing balance billing laws, nor are there any statewide limits on what can be charged. This bill prohibits surprise billing by ground ambulance providers and establishes default payment rates to manage consumer costs.
improving Accountability Through Fair Contract Negotiations
This bill would restrict big consolidated health systems from anti-competitive bargaining when they negotiate pay rates, to make sure there’s a level playing field that rewards higher-quality, lower-priced providers. This bill attracted significant media attention and educated lawmakers and the public about the unfair contracting that occurs between insurers and providers. While the bill didn’t pass in the 2023 session, the budget directed the Attorney General and Office of the Insurance Commissioner to study the effectiveness of provider price or rate regulation strategies used in other states.
- Fact sheet
- The lawsuit between Premera and The Everett Clinic shows how some providers force insurers to pay high prices and prompts Northwest Health Law Advocates Senior Attorney and Policy Advisor Emily Brice to ask, “If the courts and insurance companies can’t stop price increases, then who can?” Everett Clinics’ spat with Premera ‘lifts the curtain’ on price increases, The Everett Herald, January 10, 2023.
Preventing anticompetitive mergers
The Keep Our Care Act would improve state advance review of proposed health system mergers and consolidations to ensure that affordable care continues and the needs of marginalized communities are considered. While the bill was ultimately unsuccessful in the 2023 session, a portion of the state budget will be used by the Attorney General and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to examine policies to address horizontal and vertical integration of health care entities.
- Fact sheet
- How more oversight of health care mergers can improve health care access. Catholic health care restrictions lead WA legislature to eye changes, The Seattle Times, February 6, 2023.
- The causes of high health care costs, a panel moderated by Patient Coalition of Washington Executive Director Jim Freeburg. Consolidation, underlying cost, and a lack of healthy competition contributing to Washington’s rising healthcare costs, State of Reform, January 6, 2023.