December Advocacy Update: Getting Ready for the 2020 Session

Beth Ebel, MD, MSc, MPH, FAAP
Co-chair, WCAAP Legislative Committee

Welcome to the December Advocacy Update! First, we are looking forward to an amazing Advocacy Day in Olympia on January 14th! Our sincere thanks to Amerigroup and Molina Healthcare for sponsoring this annual event. We are putting together a great lineup of speakers – including Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson – and also invite participants who are staying in Olympia the night before to join colleagues for an informal get-together. We will be holding a pre-Advocacy Day prep webinar on December 18th. Details will be sent to registered participants.

On January 13th the Washington State legislature begins a “short” 60-day legislative session, as occurs in every even year. Our motivated members, your legislative committee and amazing WCAAP staff have been working hard to support key policies for the wellbeing of kids and families. The first step is to meet your legislators now. Across the state, pediatric providers have met with legislators in interim meetings, including meetings in Olympia, Yakima, Spokane, Kirkland, Tacoma and Seattle meetings. These interim meetings are an opportunity to share our advocacy priorities and listen to legislators’ personal goals for policies which impact children and families. Our goal is to have pediatricians actively meeting with lawmakers in each legislative district throughout the state. Pediatric providers are welcomed by lawmakers of all stripes, recognizing our special role in speaking up for children.

Legislative priorities reflect what we have heard from WCAAP members and focus on areas in which we have a unique voice and expertise. You can download issue briefs on each of our top priorities on the active issues page on our website.

  • Improve access to care for kids across Washington State. There are areas throughout the state where the access to pediatric care is limited because practices cannot afford to stay in business with high proportions of Medicaid patients. Children whose care is covered by Medicaid/Apple Health deserve reimbursement parity with what adults receive through Medicare. We are asking for pediatric Medicaid/Medicare parity for medical care and behavioral health– we are halfway there! Our members have been passionate advocates for improving behavioral health access, which is a daily challenge for parents and pediatricians. Building on the success of the PAL line (telephone support for providers and parents seeking mental health access), WCAAP members are asking lawmakers to approve funding for a 6-month extension for the PAL-run Washington’s Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens, to cover the gap before the next biennium funding bills.
  • Support funding for “Help Me Grow,” an evidence-based approach to giving every child a great start.
  • Support laws to eliminate nicotine exposure in childhood. As parents and providers, we are startled and aghast at the insidious rise in vaping/Juuling among young people, driven by aggressive marketing from vape companies and big tobacco companies who have invested heavily in e-cigarettes. This year we are working with legislative champions to legislate a flavor ban for vaping/cigarettes, including menthol. Regardless of industry claims, these flavors and additives are directly aimed at making nicotine palatable for young people and have additional health risks which are only now becoming evident. We strongly support a substantial increase in the tax rate of vape products (which are taxed only cents on the dollar compared to cigarettes) and the allocation of resources for the prevention of youth nicotine addiction and enforcement for current laws.
  • We have additional “support” items in which we partner with other groups to have a more powerful voice: these include obesity prevention, strengthening lead standards, prevention of gun violence, support for Medicaid for new mothers for the first year of life, nurse home visiting for families who need extra support, and anti-poverty measures such as TANF and the Working Families Tax Credit.

In this season of thanks, we thank each of you. Your voices are powerful! We look forward to a strong year of legislative advocacy, and are particularly grateful for each of you –  members who squeeze in time to speak up, send an Action Alert, testify, write an editorial, meet with your representatives, and generally work every day to help kids and parents.

Learn about legislative advocacy:

  1. Overview of the legislative process
  2. Glossary of legislative terms
  3. Find your district & legislators
  4. How a bill becomes a law
  5. A citizen’s guide to effective legislative participation
  6. How to testify in committees