Washington State Bill To Curb Hospital Mergers, Care Access

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It is well to be noted that the Washington State Senate has gone ahead and passed a bill recently that would enable the attorney general to reject hospital mergers that are perceived to limit care access, such as reproductive, gender-affirming, emergency, as well as end-of-life care.

Under the act, the attorney general can go ahead and determine by way of a public process if the proposed mergers would go on to detrimentally affect accessible as well as affordable care for at least 10 years following the deal. The AG would be able to conditionally approve or even reject transactions.

If in case it is passed by the state House, the law may decrease the tie-ups between secular as well as religious hospitals, that went on to operate 45% of Washington beds as of 2021, as per a report from the Seattle Times. Across the US, many religiously affiliated hospitals go on to function under ethical as well as religious directives and do not give out abortion or even sterilization services.

The Keep Our Care Act got passed in the Washington Senate in a 28-21 vote on February 8. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, said in a statement that the policy was about making sure that Washingtonians happened to have a meaningful access when it came to their legally enshrined reproductive rights.

A right without access is not a right, said Sen. Emily Randall.

Notably, it was only Oregon that had a similar law on the books. The state went on to give officials the capacity so as to deny healthcare deals that went on to restrict essential care access starting in 2022.

In Washington, a series of secular as well as religious hospital mergers went on to preceed the bill’s passage.

CHI Franciscan and Virginia Mason Health System, which are Washington-based, merged in 2021 and became Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. Virginia Mason’s parent company, CommonSpirit Health, happens to be both one of the country’s largest nonprofit health systems as well as the nation’s largest Catholic healthcare chain.

Significantly, the American Civil Liberties Union went on to oppose the deal in comments to regional outlet MyNorthwest, due to the fact that the Catholic medical network would not offer abortion services or gender-affirming care.

Apparently, in 2022, Swedish Health Services as well as the Catholic health system Providence United became Providence Swedish.

In a Jan. 24 Senate session, proponents concerning to the bill testified that it will go on to create oversight as well as accountability into the merger process and hence enable the AG to carefully and thoroughly assess conflicts of interest. Supporters happen to include spokespeople from Pro-Choice Washington, racial and economic nonprofit lobbying group WashingtonCAN!, as well as the Economic Opportunity Institute.

But the fact is that the bill did not pass without criticism. Washington State Hospital Association and Washington State Medical Association spokespeople apparently testified against the bill. Critics went on to take issue with the amount of power that is handed to the AG so as to review deals and worried about the options that are available for financially strapped hospitals so as to pursue mergers that met the specifications of the lawmakers.

One of the bill opponents during a Jan. 26 Senate session said that this bill happens to be a blunt instrument that will stifle the capacity of vulnerable hospitals as well as providers in order to find partners and keep offering care that is critical to their communities.

It is worth noting that the policy has advanced to the State House.