As an advocacy organization, the Northwest Kidney Council routinely engages in legislative discussions impacting our kidney community. In 2023, we’re amplifying the voices of patients and experts on several key issues in Salem and Olympia.
The Washington Legislature commenced on Jan. 9 and Oregon legislators officially convened on Jan. 17. Already, we’re seeing movement on a few priority items for the kidney community in both states. As expected, healthcare workforce shortages are the talk of both towns.
In Washington, the Northwest Kidney Council testified on Jan. 12 in support of SB 5181, which would allow medical-assistant hemodialysis technicians (MA-HTs) to continue to work after they’ve completed their training, but before their credentials are issued by the Department of Health. The gap between completed training and issuance of credentials is often several weeks, during which these qualified providers are unable to work. This is a necessary fix to the system and will benefit both patients and providers.
Both states have introduced legislation (Oregon: SB 227, and Washington: SB 5499) to allow licensed nurses from out-of-state to practice in-state. All healthcare facilities are experiencing concerning shortages of nurses and legislation like this will allow patients to have ready access to a qualified network of providers.
In Washington, we’re also supporting an effort to allow organ transplant vehicles to use lights and sirens when necessary. For the more than 15,000 Washingtonians with kidney disease, they have two options: Dialysis, or transplant. It is essential the legislature pass this commonsense legislation (HB 5177) to allow for the efficient transportation of lifesaving organs.
There are two additional efforts in Washington we’re following closely: A request from dialysis providers to increase their Medicaid reimbursement rate, which was last changed 16 years ago; and an update to legislation around facilities’ certificates of need, which will allow providers the same flexibility to provide care as they had during the pandemic’s state of emergency. More to come on both concepts.
Lastly, we’re raising some concerns around a well-intended but unnecessary bill (HB 2778) in Oregon to require outpatient dialysis facilities to have backup generation at all times. The Northwest Kidney Council presented on this issue to the Oregon Senate last year, emphasizing that the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services already requires facilities to have plans in place for generation in the event of a disaster or power outage. These facilities need to focus on serving patients, not complying with duplicative regulations.
With support from elected officials and the community, we can make great progress on behalf of the kidney community in the Pacific Northwest.
If you’re interested in sharing your story or testifying on any of these bills with us, contact our Director of Advocacy Nathaniel Brown at email@example.com.