Advocacy Update: Halfway to the Finish Line!

Jennifer Donahue
WCAAP Communications Manager

The 2021 legislative session has passed the half-way mark! This week was the cutoff for bills to be passed from their original chamber to be sent to the policy committees in the opposite chamber for consideration. We are pleased to report that the vast majority of the bills we have been tracking are moving forward.

Top priorities

Medicaid Rate: The bill to increase the Medicaid rate to parity with Medicare did not advance, but we knew that would be a possibility and covered our bases but submitting a budget proviso request. The real test will come when the budget is being written – we will need to raise our voices to ensure the Medicaid rate is included in the House and Senate budgets, and ultimately in the final budget. Keep an eye out for action alerts at key junctures when we need you to contact your legislators!

Behavioral Health: HB 1325, which provides support for Washington’s Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens and for screening for children ages 0-5 will be heard in the Senate Health & Long Term Care committee this Friday. We expect this bill to continue through the legislative process and will alert WCAAP members if we need your help to advance it!

Postpartum Medicaid: SB 5068, which extends postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to one year, passed the Senate unanimously and was heard in the House Health Care & Wellness committee today. WCAAP member Maria Huang and parent advocate Abrehet Francis (who also serves on our First Year Families steering committee) both testified.

Vaping: While the vaping bills we originally supported did not advance out of their policy committees, Rep. Gerry Pollet has introduced a new bill, HB 1550, that increases the tax on vaping products.

Many of the other bills we support are moving forward as well:

  • HB 1196, audio-only telehealth reimbursement, passed the House and will be heard in the Senate Health & Long Term Care committee on Friday. Thatcher Felt will testify.
  • HB 1225, school-based health centers, passed the House and is in the Senate Health & Long Term Care committee.
  • SB 5169, reimbursement for PPE costs, passed the Senate and is in the House Health Care & Wellness committee.
  • SB 5214, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, passed the Senate and is in the House Housing, Human Services & Veterans committee.
  • HB 1140, juvenile access to attorneys, passed the House and is in the Senate Human Services committee. Two other juvenile justice bills we supported did not advance.
  • HB 1297, Working Family Tax Credit, passed in the House just in time for the cutoff!
  • HB 1073, Paid Family & Medical Leave, passed in the House and is being heard in the Senate Labor committee tomorrow.
  • HB 1091, clean fuels, passed the House and had a hearing in the Senate Environment committee today.
  • HB 1099, climate response framework, passed the House and is in the Senate Housing & Local Government committee.
  • HB 1009, student health plans, passed the House and is in the Senate Health & Long Term Care committee.

Unfortunately, efforts to advance restrictions on high capacity firearm magazines and to require commercial insurers to cover hearing aids for children were not successful this year.

Effecting change at the state level can be a long process, and we are grateful to all of you who take a few minutes out of your day to advocate for policies that impact children. Your efforts to reach out to your legislators make a difference!

For a quick and easy way to reach legislators on WCAAP issues, text WCAAP to 50457, and you’ll receive our action alerts by text. We try to limit our action alerts to 1-2 times/week and promise we won’t share your contact information with outside entities.

Getting Kids Back to School

WCAAP has been working closely with state agencies to advocate for getting our state’s kids back to school, safely. We know that it is essential to equip educators and school staff with accurate infection prevention information to reduce the risk of transmission and to build confidence.

In that spirit, more than 70 WCAAP members have volunteered to support their local schools as they transition to in-person learning, and WCAAP will provide training to help our members prepare for that role. We have also advocated with legislators and the Governor’s office directly and leveraged local media to help reassure families that in-person school can be safe.