Welcome to week 2 of Washington’s 2023 legislative session! From January through April, our state’s 147 legislators will review, discuss, and pass legislation and the 2023-2025 biennium budget. Legislative session is always an exciting and important time to advocate on behalf of community health care needs in our state. This year will be even more interesting, as the legislature is welcoming around 20 brand new legislators, as well as new leadership on key committees (including Rep. Riccelli as the new chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee after the retirement of Rep. Eileen Cody, and Sen. June Robinson as the new Vice Chair for the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee).
As we’ve done for decades, the Washington Association for Community Health has partnered the Community Health Network of Washington to develop a legislative agenda based on needs raised by leadership of Washington’s 27 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). We hope that you will join us in supporting our priorities to preserve the health care safety net, address Washington’s health care workforce shortage, and continue capital investments in community health dental clinics.
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2023 Legislative Agenda
Preserve the Health Care Safety Net
Washington state’s community health centers are the backbone of the state’s health care safety net, caring for over 1 million of Washington’s lowest income and at-risk individuals at more than 350 clinic sites statewide. To achieve its goal of advancing health equity, Washington state must preserve this health care safety net by protecting programs that fund access to care for low income and uninsured populations. In 2023, one of the most important ways the legislature can do that is by supporting increased investments in programs that expand health insurance to individuals who are undocumented. Specifically, we ask that lawmakers:
Fully fund the Apple Health equivalent coverage for undocumented Washingtonians whose incomes are below 138% FPL.
Provide ongoing funding for expansion of the federal waiver (1332) that allows individuals who are undocumented and have incomes below 250% FPL to purchase insurance on the health benefit exchange.
Invest in the Health Care Workforce
With health care settings across the state experiencing workforce shortage emergencies, Washington must enact innovative workforce solutions as soon as possible. Health centers are critical to developing the health care workforce, providing over 125 job training programs across the state. The legislature should invest in and expand these efforts to attract new workers and remove barriers for those already working in the field.
Continue Capital Investments in Community Dental Clinics
Since 2017, the state legislature has invested in 31 community health dental clinics that are expanding access to care to more than 100,000 patients. Unfortunately, more than 1.2 million Apple Health enrollees are still expected to go without dental care this year. In order to continue expanding care in Washington, we ask that lawmakers:
Invest $6.1 million in capital funding in new or expanded facilities at seven CHCs. With this investment, the health centers can serve more than 10,500 patients and provide more than 30,300 visits. The seven projects include:
Peninsula Community Health Services | LD 26
Columbia Valley CHC | LD 12
CHC Tacoma | LD 27
HealthPoint | LD 34
Lake Roosevelt CHC | LD 7
Neighborcare | LD 43
Seattle Indian Health Board | LD 34