Senate backs Braun measures to address mismanagement, improve care for developmentally disabled Washingtonians

OLYMPIA…The Senate today gave unanimous approval to bills from Sen. John Braun aimed at addressing concerns about the care of developmentally disabled Washingtonians and the management of health care for low-income residents.

“It’s wrong that developmentally disabled people who don’t have medical needs are effectively being abandoned at hospitals – but it happens, and the state agencies who are ultimately responsible for their care need to be held accountable,” said Braun, R-Centralia.

His bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 5483, is inspired by a report from the state’s developmental disabilities ombuds that was featured in a January edition of Braun’s Economic Sense policy report.

The bill calls for the state Department of Social and Health Services and its Developmental Disabilities Administration to track and monitor client hospitalizations and improve the transition of clients from service providers. Also, hospitals would be reimbursed by the state when they are essentially forced to care for developmentally disabled people who have no medical need requiring hospitalization.

Braun’s SB 5523 is intended to bring more accountability to the delivery of health care to low-income Washington residents on Medicaid – the focus of another Economic Sense paper, issued in February.

“It costs our state’s taxpayers nearly $6 billion a year for what is called ‘managed care,’ yet the companies receiving that money can’t manage to provide care at levels even close to the national average,” Braun said. “That’s unacceptable, particularly when some of the measures are related to the health of women and children.

“This bill would tie performance to payment – and if performance improves, then both the clients and the taxpayers will benefit.”

Another Braun bill approved today is also directed at the DDA arm of DSHS, and has to do with requiring quarterly assessments of those receiving care at state-run rehabilitation housing centers.

The federal government recently announced it will decertify a program at one of those RHCs, Rainier School in Buckley, resulting in a loss of about $12 million annually in federal funding. The case, prompted by health and safety concerns, is similar to the issues that led to the recent loss of $53 million in federal funding for the largest state-run psychiatric hospital, Western State Hospital.

Braun said Senate Bill 5536 would start to address challenges involving the RHCs and federal requirements and “help put us on a good track for our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

Today was the final day of the 2019 legislative session for the Senate to act on Senate bills that are not part of any upcoming budget package. SB 5483 and SB 5536 will now go to the House of Representatives for its consideration.