Olympia, WA: Slew of health bills OK'd in House
MICHAEL THE OLYMPIAN
Bill cutoff today
The frantic action on the House and Senate floors
continues today as lawmakers race to meet the cutoff deadline
for passing bills from their houses of origin. The deadline
is at 5 p.m. today, and a few hundred bills will probably be
dead by sundown.
Bills required to implement the budget are exempted
from the cutoffs.
No bill is ever truly and entirely dead at this
stage of the game. So bills missing today's cutoff could be
revived later, if they garner enough support.
Legislative leaders are intentionally delaying
action on some bills until after the cutoff. The best example
of that tactic is the cluster of bills that would alter the
state's primary election system, bringing it into alignment
with the federal Constitution.
Most lawmakers have been unwilling to commit
to any alternative until after court options are exhausted.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide next Monday whether
to hear the state's appeal of a 9th circuit ruling that declared
Washington's system unconstitutional because it lets Republicans
cross over to vote for the Democrats and vice versa.
Those elections bills will be staying in committees
for at least another week.
Out of the House
Civil liability bills passed by the House of
Representatives on Monday include:
- HB 2786: Establishes a patient safety program
funded with fees and addresses early settlement offers
- HB 3197: Requires reporting of medical malpractice
claims to the state insurance commissioner.
- HB 1926: Limits the use of expert witnesses.
- HB 1927: Requires mandatory mediation and
notice of filing suit.
- HB 1928: Addresses liability in cases where
more than one party is at fault.
- HB 3201: Requires plaintiffs in cases deemed
by the court to be "frivolous'' to be required to pay court
costs, including expert witness fees.
- HB 2834: Establishes a health professionals
discipline task force and enhances protections for those who
report substandard health care providers.
- HB 2837: Requires medical malpractice insurance
carriers to file their rules for accepting applicants with the
state insurance commissioner.
- HB 2816: Extends the required notice of cancellation
or non-renewal of medical malpractice policies from 45 days
to 90 days.
- HB 3200: Limits the time period for filing
an action for injury or death relating to health care.
- HB 2839: Establishes a task force on medical
malpractice dispute resolution alternatives.
- HB 2787: Expands the types of health care
providers and settings that qualify for provider immunity for
- HB 2788: Expands the types of health care
providers and settings where the state Department of Health
can pay for malpractice insurance.
- HB 2838: This bill is specifically to assist
Physicians Insurance Company, which insures at least two-thirds
of Washington state physicians. The bill would allow domestic
mutual insurers to assess a fee on policyholders to increase
its reserves to allow the company to write more policies. The
move -- known as a capital call -- is preferred to raising rates
because there is a tax advantage.
- HB 2879: Streamlines the sanction process
for health care professions, with the exception of license revocation.
- HB 2931: Allows the use of $19.1 million sitting
in the health professions account for health professions and
- HB 2485: Changes the interest rate on civil
liability judgments from 12 percent to the average interest
rate on 26-week treasury bills plus 4 percent.
- For more information on these bills, go to
www.leg.wa.gov and click on "Bill Information."
Olympia, WA - Democrats, who control the House, say they are ready
to negotiate medical malpractice and other civil liability issues
with Republicans, who
control the Senate.
The House passed 17 bills in a four-hour Monday afternoon session
that covered a range of issues related to medical malpractice, patient
safety and insurance law.
None of the bills included caps on non- economic damage awards.
Rep. Pat Lantz, a Gig Harbor Democrat who heads the House Judiciary
Committee was elated that she had something to take to the table to
begin negotiating a solution to the state's medical malpractice insurance
"We have (passed) many of the elements within MICRA," she
said following the session.
MICRA is California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975,
which medical associations, insurance company lobbyists and the Liability
Reform Coalition of Washington hold up as a model of legislation that
stabilizes medical malpractice premiums while allowing patients to
recover damages for injuries suffered at the hands of a health care
But a key element of MICRA is a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages
-- damages supporters refer to as "pain and suffering" awards
and opponents say represents loss of quality of life.
Whatever the term, House Democrats, are unflinchingly opposed to
limiting jury awards.
Lantz said she is looking forward to sitting down with Sen. Dale
Brandland, a Whatcom County Republican who sponsored the omnibus civil
liability bill that passed the Senate last week.
"I have a fair amount of hope (we can work things out),"
Lantz said. "He wants something. I want something. We're both
serious minded people."
But Lantz is unwilling to budge on limits on liability awards.
"I'm not voting for caps, and that's a fact," she said.
"It's not just you, honey," added Rep. Eileen Cody, a West
Seattle Democrat who is chairwoman of the House Health Committee.
House Republican leaders complained that the Democrats' package of
bills took some good elements of Brandland's bill and watered them
down so that they do little or nothing to address the current medical
malpractice insurance crisis.
During debate, GOP Floor Leader Glenn Anderson repeatedly urged members
to consider the Senate omnibus civil liability bill -- a bill Democratic
leaders would not let out of committee this year or last year.
"We've got to end the politics and spin and get back to governance
by decision," said Anderson, R-Fall City.
"Let's make a decision. Let's fix it."
Lantz said the omnibus bill, which addresses civil liability laws
governing all types of professionals, businesses and government at
all levels, is too far reaching.
People won't support it when they understand its broad impact, she
The House bills now go to the Senate for consideration, and both
chambers are under increasing pressure from voters and from their
own leaders to do something to satisfy doctors and patients before
the session ends.