Making COVID-19 health care reforms permanent in Washington state

By ROGER STARK  | 
May 8, 2020
POLICY NOTES

Click here to read the full Policy Note, Making COVID-19 health care reforms permanent in Washington state

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Key Findings

1. The COVID-19 health care crisis has forced Washington state elected officials to change the health care delivery system to accommodate a patient surge.

2. These changes make sense in the short term and likewise make sense to be made permanent. They all work to increase timely access to health care for patients, not just during a crisis.

3. Because of the crisis, state officials suspended the Certificate of Need law (CON) for long term care facilities. Without any CON, the state also set up non-hospital facilities, such as Century Link Field, to handle any overflow from traditional hospitals. With 50 years of real-world experience, the evidence is now clear that CON laws do not reduce health care costs, however, they do reduce patient access to care.

4. State officials declared that providers of telemedicine visits would be reimbursed by insurance companies at the same rate as in-office visits. To improve access to health care, state officials should streamline the licensing process for out-of-state providers, and should not place barriers to patient-doctor interactions using telemedicine.

5. The Inslee Administration released an executive order that allowed volunteers who were not fully licensed to provide emergency services during the crisis and to be protected from malpractice litigation. Relaxing barriers to practice medicine in Washington state would be an effective method to improve the looming doctor shortage.

6. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, state officials have unilaterally made changes to the health insurance industry. Whether these are reasonable mandates from government or not, the important point is that in a crisis, health insurance reforms can be made expeditiously.

7. Governor Inslee denied a request from the Washington State Hospital Association, Medical Association, and Nurses Association to extend the Emergency Volunteer Protection Act to all Washington practitioners. Tort reform would improve the affordability and quality of health care for all Washington state residents.

8. The COVID-19 crisis has forced elected officials to make rapid decisions in what they believe to be the safest course of action for citizens. Rather than take these positive reforms away, they should be made permanent in law

 

Introduction

The COVID-19 health care crisis has forced Washington state elected officials to implement positive reforms in the health care delivery system to accommodate a patient surge. These changes are meant to be temporary, however if they are necessary and effective on a short-term basis they should be made permanent so they can benefit patients in the future.

The goal of these reforms is to increase patient access to health care while utilizing limited medical resources in the most efficient manner. These policy changes make sense in the short term and likewise it makes sense to carry them forward.

Click here to read the full Policy Note, Making COVID-19 health care reforms permanent in Washington state