Hello OT Practitioners!
It feels incredible to remember that the legislative session just ended less than two weeks ago! The world has certainly changed since then. I hope my updates and resources on the COVID-19 situation have been helpful. Here’s one clearinghouse that contains information for financial assistance for families, caregivers, laid off workers, and links to many other resources: www.coronavirus.wa.gov. I’ve also helped WOTA leadership develop some of the telehealth guidance on the WOTA website.
Here’s a quick legislative session wrapup:
2020 was a very successful year for WOTA’s advocacy efforts:
- SB 5385 requiring payment parity for telehealth passed. Beginning January 1, 2021, all insurers must pay for services provided via telehealth at the same rate as they would pay for the same service provided in person. (While this law won’t take effect until next year, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers are expanding their telehealth reimbursement policies to address the Covid-19 outbreak. See the WOTA website for more information on current telehealth policies).
- SB 5601 regulating benefit managers passed. This bill requires that all health care benefit managers (such as Evicore) must register with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and file all of their contracts with health carriers or providers for OIC review. The bill gives the OIC enforcement authority to investigate complaints, levy fines, put benefit managers on corrective action plans, or to suspend or revoke the benefit manager’s registration (stopping them from doing business in the state). We hope this legislation will help address abuses our OT members have reported over many years.
- SB 5887 protecting 6 visits from insurer interference passed. This bill was a follow-on to legislation we passed in 2018 which protected 6 visits from prior authorization. We then learned that insurers were continuing to limit access to care during the first six visits with medical necessity and other types of utilization review. This legislation protects those initial visits from all different types of “utilization management” insurers might use.
- SB 6404 providing transparency on prior authorization passed. Led by the Washington State Medical Association, this legislation requires insurance carriers to provide data to the office of the Insurance Commissioner about the billing codes most likely to be subject to prior authorization, with specific data to identify those services most likely to be approved after they were initially denied. The OIC will issue a report on the data (which is likely to inform future legislation to crack down on prior authorization that seems unjustified).
- SB 6532 removing state oversight for ABA technicians did not pass. This bill would have removed all certification requirements for ABA technicians, allowing ABA therapists to work with unlicensed staff (no state oversight, no background checks) to provide ABA services. WOTA’s lobbyist worked quickly to alert the bill sponsor about our concern that anyone working with vulnerable children, some of whom are nonverbal, should undergo state background screening to ensure the safety of patients and the public. The ABA therapists have asked WOTA to meet over the interim to discuss alternative ways to address their workforce challenges.
- HB 2012 Board Certification Bonuses for OTs in Schools did not pass. WOTA appreciates our education champion Rose Racicot for coming to testify in Olympia to support this bill! We worked on this bill with other professions working as education staff associates (PT, SLP, nurses, social workers, psychologists). The fiscal note had a wide range of $6.4 million-$25 million, because they do not know how many ESAs have board certification already.
- Special Education Safety Net Funding increased $41 million for 2021-23 biennium. The state budget made meaningful investments in closing the gap in special education funding, but timed the majority of that investment for the upcoming biennium.
Kate White Tudor, J.D.