Washington State Medical Association Responds to House Budget
Olympia, Wash. – Today Democrats in the House of Representatives released their budget proposal, bringing forward a $39 billion state spending plan for the two-year cycle beginning July 1. Spending increases focused on education and funding raises for state employees.
Notably absent from the budget proposal were funds needed to improve access for the 1.7 million patients currently on the state’s health care assistance program (Medicaid), including more than 750,000 children. State financing has a crucial role in the functioning of the state’s health care system, and not providing adequate funding for health care could have serious ramifications for all Washington residents, including those children we seek to educate.
“Having access to insurance does not ensure access to care. Without a commitment by the state to support physicians who care for Medicaid patients, the burden is shifted to physician practices, which must decide whether to subsidize patient care at an economic loss—putting their entire practice at financial risk—or limiting the number of Medicaid patients they treat,” said Brian Seppi, MD, president of the WSMA, which represents nearly 10,000 physicians and physician assistants in the state.
In a recent study of primary care practices, large clinics and health systems conducted by the WWAMI Center for Health Workforce Studies, 74 percent of primary care physicians reported they would reduce or stop seeing current Medicaid patients if payments revert to pre-2013 levels.
House Democrats included in their proposal a 20 percent increase in the business and occupation tax rate for service businesses, including independent physician practices.
“The B&O tax narrowly targets specific services, and will negatively impact those who practice in private practice or independent medical clinics—about half of our state’s physicians,” said Jennifer Hanscom, CEO of the WSMA. “The increased tax burden placed on these practices, coupled with decreased payments for treating Medicaid patients, will undoubtedly make it more difficult for many independently run practices to accept more patients and may jeopardize their ability to offer much needed patient services due to cost reductions, such as laying off employees.”
“Our state made a commitment to reduce the number of its uninsured residents by offering them Medicaid coverage. Now they must follow through on their commitment by ensuring that these patients have access to care in their communities. Reducing physician payments for treating these patients and piling on additional taxes will not only jeopardize access to needed care for our state’s most vulnerable patients, but put at risk the economic viability of independent, physician-run practices,” added Dr. Seppi.
The WSMA will continue to support its health care funding priorities as the budget negotiations continue.
The Washington State Medical Association’s vision is to make Washington the best place to practice medicine and to receive care. The WSMA represents physicians, physician assistants, residents and medical students throughout Washington state. For more information about the WSMA, please visit www.wsma.org.