Since the beginning of the year, lawmakers in Oregon and Washington have
gathered (primarily virtually, due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns) for the annual legislative sessions taking place in Olympia and Salem. But now, after a legislative sprint that often felt more like a marathon, Oregon legislators adjourned on March 4; in Washington, legislators gaveled out on March 10.
Each year, as health care policy is proposed, debated, and voted on, the Northwest Kidney Council advocates on behalf of the kidney community throughout the region. While we typically see fewer legislative proposals during these shorter sessions (next year they’ll be about six months long), that doesn’t mean important things haven’t been happening.
Northwest Kidney Council supported two bills at the Washington legislature, and we closely monitored bills in Oregon for opportunities to improve access to care. While neither of the Washington bills got over the finish line this year, progress was certainly made. And in the advocacy world, progress happens in inches.
One, Washington SB 5499, would have made technical changes to the Medical Assistant-Hemodialysis Technicians regulating statutes to allow for a more streamlined credentialing process. Considering the serious challenges facing
Washington’s provider workforce, this bill was an important effort aimed at improving the continuity of care for kidney patients.
Underscoring the broad benefit of the idea, a diverse coalition of partners from around the state, including the Puget Sound Kidney Centers, Northwest Kidney Centers, Comagine Health, DaVita and Fresenius, joined us in support of this legislation. You can read our letter of support here.
The other Washington bill, SB 5724, would have allowed appropriately licensed organ transport vehicles to utilize lights, sirens, and other important traffic safety equipment to ensure that organ transportation is faster and more effective – thus saving more lives.
Our national colleagues at Dialysis Patient Citizens and the American Kidney Fund also supported this bill. The bill passed through its original committee earlier in February but stalled in the Senate Rules Committee. Read our letter of support here.
While we didn't seen kidney-specific legislation emerge in Oregon this session, we continue to keep in close contact with our advocates and legislators in Salem. The Northwest Kidney Council did support an effort to secure funding for Citizenship Waived Medical emergency dialysis treatment for low-income residents (regardless of immigration status), which passed.
As we look ahead to the 2023 sessions, it’s a safe bet that important legislation impacting Oregon’s kidney community will be on the table.
Thank you to those who have collaborated in support of these critical efforts. We’ll keep our members and partners up to date in the interim. If you have any questions or thoughts, reach out to our director of advocacy, James Adkins (firstname.lastname@example.org).