Healthcare Legislation News

2021: Huge gains for health care policy in Washington State

This year, Washington saw significant progress toward a more equitable and sustainable health care system. From the Universal Health Care Commission to more affordable standardized plans on the Health Benefit Exchange, laws now on the books will lead to greater health system transparency, lower prices for generic pharmaceutical drugs, a full year of postpartum coverage for Medicaid enrollees, and the creation of Health Equity Zones across the state.

Of the dozens of healthcare bills that passed into law, HCFA-WA supported and actively lobbied for five that aligned with our 2021 goal as outlined in our Strategic Plan: to pass legislation built on the recommendation of the Universal Health Care Work Group and other legislation that moves our state toward publicly funded, universal health care. We are beyond thrilled that all 5 were passed and are now signed into law!

These new laws are pieces of a puzzle that, when finished, will reveal a comprehensive and equitable health care system that covers all Washington residents. Congratulations to our Health Care Champions in the legislature and advocates alike for your strong work in this historic virtual 2021 Legislative Session! And thanks to the Legislature’s amazing tech team for enabling the remote testimony that increased public participation in bill hearings by 300% over the 2019-2020 session.

To resolve the current triple crises in public health, economic justice, and racial equity, we must guarantee equitable and affordable health care for everybody. These policy achievements are keys to that success.

E2SSB 5399 Creating the Universal Health Care Commission.
Bill text Senate Bill Report

Sponsors: Sponsors: Senators Randall, Cleveland, Das, Dhingra, Frockt, Hunt, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, Nguyen, Nobles, Robinson, Saldaña, Stanford, Van De Wege, Wellman and Wilson, C.

  • Builds on the 2019-2020 Universal Health Care Work Group recommendation that called for establishing a permanent Commission to develop a comprehensive, equitable, and affordable health care system that covers all Washington residents
  • The 15-member Commission includes 4 legislators, 5 state agency heads and 6 members of the public including at least one consumer representative and one tribal government representative
  • Authorizes immediate application for Federal waivers – no need for additional legislation 
  • Commission meetings will be open to the public and ongoing until the goal of universal health care is reached 

E2SSB 5377
- Increasing the affordability of standardized plans on the Health Benefits Exchange
Bill text | Senate Bill Report

Sponsors: Senators Frockt, Keiser, Conway, Das, Dhingra, Hunt, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, Wilson, C., Nguyen, Pedersen, Saldaña and Salomon.

  • Provides premium subsidies and cost-sharing assistance for health insurance purchased on the Health Benefits Exchange by low-income individuals.
  • Creates the State Health Care Affordability Account in the state treasury to hold the funds for premium and cost sharing assistance programs.
  • Requires hospital systems with state-wide networks to participate by 2022

ESSB 5203
Producing, distributing, and purchasing generic prescription drugs
Bill text | Senate Bill Report

Sponsors: Senators Van De Wege, Carlyle, Frockt, Hasegawa, Keiser, Liias, Nguyen, Randall, Robinson, Salomon, Stanford and Wilson, C.

  • Authorizes the Health Care Authority to collaborate with other states or entities in the production, distribution and purchase of generic prescription drugs and insulin 
  • Requires that state health care programs purchase their enrollees’ prescription drugs through this program 
  • Lowers the price of prescription drugs by allowing a public agency to compete with private pharmaceutical companies and Pharmacy Benefit Managers

E2SSB 5052
 - Creating health equity zones
Bill text | Senate Bill Report

Sponsors: Senators Keiser, Randall, Cleveland, Conway, Das, Frockt, Hasegawa, Kuderer, Lovelett, Nguyen, Nobles, Robinson Saldaña, Salomon, Wilson, C.

  • Designates health equity zones and funds the communities who live in them to develop projects to improve health outcomes and decrease health disparities. 
  • Community-driven and place-based approach to health equity

E2SHB 1272
- Creating health system transparency
Bill text | House Bill Report

Sponsors: Representatives Macri, Cody, Fitzgibbon, Davis, Hackney, Thai, Kloba, Rule, Simmons, Pollet, Dolan, Slatter, Riccelli and Harris-Talley.

  • Requires detailed reporting of hospital revenue and expenses, charity care, and details of community benefits provided 
  • Requires hospitals to report disaggregated patient demographic information such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, preferred language, any disability, and zip code, including mortality rates of labor and delivery patients
  • Requires reports of staffing plans and facility layouts that enable nurses to take meal and rest breaks.


We look forward to continued progress in the 2022 Legislative Session. We'll be sure to let you know what's coming up. If you're not already on our email list, please sign up today so that you can receive our periodic updates. 

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