The 2019 legislative session is officially over! This year’s session was a long one but very productive, with highs and lows along the way. Here’s how we fared on our top priorities:
- Elimination of MMR vaccine exemptions for personal or philosophical reasons. This legislation goes into effect July 1, 2019. WCAAP’s Vaccine Committee is working with the Department of Health to provide support to clinics on this new legislation.
- Improve access to pediatric primary and specialty care for children on Apple Health for Kids by building on last year’s Medicaid rate increase and achieving full parity with Medicare. The final budget did not include a Medicaid rate increase for pediatric primary and specialty care. We know that this effort is a marathon and will continue advocating for full parity in the interim.
- Improve access to timely behavioral health care for children on Apple Health for Kids. The final budget included a 10% increase for mental health counseling for children on Apple Health; this is only a partial victory, as we asked for Medicaid rate parity with Medicare for counseling. Funding for a pilot of PAL (Partnership Access Line) for schools in two school districts was included, one east of the mountains, one west of the mountains. In this model, the PAL team would train school personnel, and school personal could also call PAL to consult. In addition, two child psychiatry residency slots and an early intervention program for psychosis were also funded.
- Raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products to 21. A big win: The Tobacco-21 bill passed and was signed into law by the governor. It takes effect on January 1, 2020. We have been working on this legislation for several years and are grateful for the efforts of Rep. Paul Harris, who sponsored the bill, and a strong coalition of committed partners.
- An updated child passenger safety law passed! Our state’s requirements now meet the national recommendations for child passenger safety. This law goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
- Investments in early childhood were included in the budget: Funding increased for existing home visiting programs, infrastructure for reliable data tracking of universal developmental screening, funding to continue the Pierce County referral and linkage pilot (Help Me Grow), and funding for Reach Out and Read.
- Funding was allocated for firearm policy research to support investigations of firearm death and injury risk factors, evaluate the effectiveness of state firearm laws, assess the consequences of firearm violence, and develop strategies to reduce harm.
- A new tax will be imposed on vape products (e-cigarettes) and the revenue is earmarked for public health prevention and cessation efforts and cancer research.
Unfortunately, the proposed increase in the business and occupation tax was included in the budget. Thank you to everyone who mobilized to contact legislators about the tax increase; we hoped for an exemption for physicians but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Once again, we thank each of you for being an advocate in whatever way you are able – whether you completed action alerts, joined us at Advocacy Day, spoke with your colleagues about our priorities, or even just kept up with what we’re doing on your behalf in Olympia. Your voices and your stories are the key to our success in the legislature and with state agencies.
We are not done yet! Our work will continue during the interim. This the time to forge relationships with legislators and educate them on child health. Do you have time to meet with your legislators in your home or office district during the next 8 months? We can help you schedule a meeting and will equip you with background material on any of our legislative priorities for discussion. If you would like to host a small gathering with legislators and colleagues in your home or office, we can help with that too!
You can support our work. Our member dues cover less than half of our core operating expenses. To maintain our infrastructure to help carry your voices to Olympia, we are participating in GiveBIG, a one-day fundraiser for Washington State nonprofit organizations. You can help us continue to speak up for kids by donating to our GiveBIG campaign on May 8th.