With the Washington state Legislature convening Jan. 13 for this year’s short session, 2nd Legislative District Sen. Randi Becker, R-Olympia, says there are a number of high priority telemedicine and transportation bills in the works.
Becker said she hopes to again bring forward legislation that would address payment disparity for telemedicine providers, requiring health care providers to pay practitioners the same rate as if they were performing an in-person exam.
This bill would incentivize more providers to move into the market, Becker said.
“I expect that it’ll go through this year. It’s happening in all sorts of other states,” Becker said. “We need that to get doctors willing to invest in the technologies to see patients that way.”
The 2nd District senator also said she’ll propose sweeping reforms to bring telemedicine services and providers to school districts with little to no extra costs.
Both these proposals were proposed by Becker in committees last year. Becker, chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, said she got bipartisan support to bring both these efforts back to the capitol.
Becker said she’s been working with the University of Washington on a pilot program and developing training regimens for the eventual passage of the school district bill.
Sumner School District and Medical Lake School District, near Spokane, are the two institutions that will participate in the pilot program next year, Becker said.
“By this time next year, they’ll start the training and actually talking to the students and counselors,” Becker said. “There’s no cost to the school districts … This does not change any methodology they have in place at this point in time, but what it does is train your bus drivers, your janitors, the people in the lunch rooms, the administrative staff to have a better incline.”
Telemedicine could also be coming to more rural communities in the future. Crosscut reported that a small hospital district in Dayton, Washington, is working with UW’s psychiatry program and its Advancing Integrated Mental Health Center to provide behavioral health treatment.
Last year, two of Becker’s telemedicine bills made it to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for approval. The first, Senate Bill 5386, was a first-of-its-kind bill that will develop standards in telemedicine training. The second was Senate Bill 5387, which allows practitioners to rely on credentials from a distant hospital.
On the lines of transportation, Becker said she’s adamant in opposing a pay-per-mile taxing structure because of what her constituents are saying.
Becker said that more than 80 percent of respondents to a recent survey told her they oppose a pay-per-mile road usage charge.
“The comments have been, ‘We have to drive to other areas to work and we don’t want to be penalized for doing that,’” Becker said. “That’s something that’s fairly disturbing to me.”
Washington’s 2nd Legislative District includes large parts of southeast Thurston County and runs through southern Pierce County. Yelm, Roy, McKenna, Eatonville and Orting are all within this district.
The statewide passage last November of Tim Eyman’s I-976, a $30 car tabs measure, has been a controversial topic between state and local governments and the citizens who voted for its passage.
Residents living in the 2nd Legislative District passed the initiative with an approval of 73.3 percent, according to material provided by Becker’s office.
“My colleagues in the Senate have proposed a bill that would replace any revenue lost from lowering car tabs. The plan would move the sales tax revenue the state gets from vehicle sales to the transportation budget instead of continuing to spend it on day-to-day government operations,” Becker stated.
Becker — who’s been quoted as describing herself as a “gun-totin’ nanny” — said she’ll continue to oppose legislation that restricts law-abiding citizens’ right to carry and said she’ll continue to consider legislation that would keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.
“Our officers have been killed by bad guys with guns who shouldn’t have had guns. We have to make those laws stronger,” she said.
Becker said she’ll sign onto a bill by Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, that will “go after the bad guys.”