Director of Professional Affairs Report
By Lucy A. Homans, Ed.D.
Summer is often the time during which Legislators and state departments consider issues to turn into bills for the next legislative session and complete work on new Rules or Washington Administrative Codes (WASs). This summer, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner has been working on several amendments to WACs, including WACS regulating insurance company network adequacy. WSPA has participated in the process.
WSPA has not recommended specific language to the network adequacy rule making process. Rather we have endeavored to be clear with OIC staff that network adequacy, reimbursement rates and administrative waste on the part of insurers are all serving to drive psychologists out of provider networks. We have also repeatedly pointed out that most networks – and Regence is the exception – have closed networks to new mental health providers for many years, thereby irrationally excluding younger psychologists.
I may have said this before, but I consider this to be a personal failure after so many years of working on your behalf to pass the mental health parity mandate in our state.
On the plus side, I got a call this summer from the Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington (ERW). The City of Seattle intended to pass an ordinance making it illegal to practice conversion therapies within the City’s limits. Bravo Seattle! WSPA stepped up and assisted with the language in the ordinance, and the ordinance passed on August 3, 2016. No DPA works alone. We rely on the expertise of our colleague state association members in matters like this one. In this case I send a big shout out to colleagues Dr. Stacey Prince, Dr. Matt Goldenberg and even though he moved he’s still a Washingtonian, Dr. Doug Haldeman. Thank you all so much!
But, back to the minus side, WSPA has tried and tried again during the rule making process to make it easier for licensed and appropriately trained mental health providers to get the CDP – or chemical dependency professional – certificate required to treat Medicaid recipients. There is such a tsunami of new Medicaid enrollees (thank you Obamacare) that the existing population of CDP providers cannot possibly meet the need. Throw in the opiod/heroin epidemic in the state for good measure and you can see the problem.
That said, the CDP Advisory Committee did virtually nothing to change the WACs that would actually result in currently licensed providers being willing to go through the certification process. In addition, the Department of Health did not find it necessary to collect data to see if the WAC changes that were made will actually achieve the intended goal. This comes as close to a complaint of the “fox guarding the henhouse” as I have ever encountered. A group of masters level mental health providers has organized an independent data collection effort process, in which WSPA has participated. Results will be made public when they are compiled.
I recently attended the annual meeting by Department of Health staff during which they discuss the DOH legislative and public health initiatives for the next year. As a result of various Tim Eyman revenue reduction initiatives over the years, DOH is about $50 million behind what they need to keep up with basic public health programs. The department expects that this situation will not improve in 2017 because the state Legislature must find the will and the funds to pay for K-12 public schools. DOH is also collecting statistics on opiod/heroin overdose and deaths. However, the group urged DOH to, in addition to medication response to addiction, include outpatient mental health therapy, acupuncture, and other appropriate and effective treatments to address severe substance use disorders.
Finally, I have just completed the third “Practice Checkup: Bringing Your Practice up to Code,” this time in Vancouver, Washington. Thanks, Vancouver! I will be doing the fourth one back in Seattle in November.
Perhaps this would be the time to close on a positive note and to remind you all that I can’t help you if you don’t contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!