OLYMPIA…Sen. Randi Becker, R-Olympia, has been named ‘Legislator of the Year’ by the Washington State Medical Association. One of only two legislators to ever receive this award twice, Sen. Becker has devoted much of her legislative career to health-care reform and is being honored for her work in expanding telemedicine.
“I am so thrilled to receive this honor again from the Washington State Medical Association. Telemedicine has been a life saver in providing care to people during the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve always felt strongly that it is the future in health care and have done everything I possibly could to improve access to, and acceptance of, this technology. I know that it will continue to be critical in how providers care for patients. It’s safe, practical and helps make care more accessible and affordable. I’ve been pleased to see it be such a valuable tool during the pandemic.”
Why Legislator of the Year?
In their own words…from WSMA’s news release:
Sen. Becker has led the charge in the Washington State Legislature to expand access to care through telemedicine services, making our state a leader in the proliferation of safe, effective, virtual care. She has partnered with WSMA throughout her time in office on a variety of priority telemedicine bills. Sen. Becker’s leadership and staunch advocacy on telemedicine left physicians and patients better prepared for the rapid shift to telemedicine services as a result of the pandemic. It is clear that Sen. Becker spent her time as a state legislator prioritizing the expansion of telemedicine and prime sponsored many crucial bills over the years, including:
- 2020 legislative session – SB 5385, telemedicine payment parity.
- As the state implemented a stay-at-home order and ban on elective procedures to flatten the pandemic’s curve, this bill was implemented via governor’s proclamation and continues to be extended by the Legislature. The most recent of Sen. Becker’s telemedicine work, it has provided a lifeline for vulnerable patients and physician practices . During the 2020 session, Sen. Becker also prime sponsored SB 5386, establishing a telemedicine training requirement for non-physician practitioners.
- 2019 legislative session – SB 5387, permitted an originating site hospital to rely on a distant site hospital’s decision to grant credentials and clinical privileges for services related to telemedicine.
- 2018 legislative session – SB 6399, instructed the Telemedicine Collaborative to examine how payment parity for telemedicine services could be appropriately implemented and SB 6163, extended the Telemedicine Collaborative to 2021.
- 2017 legislative session – SB 5436, clarified where a patient may be to receive “in-home” telemedicine services.
- 2016 legislative session – SB 6519, established the Telemedicine Collaborative to provide recommendations to the legislature on issues of quality, practice, and payment for services.
- Becker has been a member of the Telemedicine Collaborative since she sponsored legislation to establish it. She spearheaded telemedicine policy is Washington state, and her involvement went beyond the few months of a legislative session each year.
- 2015 legislative session – SB 5175, allowed for physicians using telemedicine to get reimbursed for that service as current law did not require that carriers reimburse for these services.
Sen. Becker shepherded all these telemedicine bills to their passage, with unanimous or near unanimous votes in both chambers each time by working with her colleagues across the aisle.
With a background in the medical field, she has been especially mindful and attentive to the physician perspective and remained diligent in considering the impact of legislation on the practice of medicine. Senator Becker has also prime sponsored other health policy bills of relevance to WSMA, including:
- Exempting health care-related services from the business and occupation surcharge, SB 6059 (2020)
- While this bill did not pass, Sen. Becker has been unwavering in her opposition to legislation that hurts the financial viability of physician practices, including the B&O tax surcharge.
- Addressing prior authorization, SB 5267 (2013) and SB 6511 (2014)
- Due to her work experience, Sen. Becker understands the administrative complications that accompany the day-to-day operations of a practice. She has long worked to simplify paperwork requirements and other regulations that create unnecessary burdens. During the 2020 legislative session, Sen. Becker was one of only two Senate republicans to cosponsor WSMA’s priority legislation regarding prior authorization, SB 6404.
- “Doctor freedom” legislation, SB 5215 (2013)
- Ensuring that physicians may not be required to participate in the Medicaid program as a condition of licensure in our state.
Sen. Becker has been a great ally to WSMA in every role she’s taken on in the state Senate. Her advocacy for the physician community is unparalleled and her ingenuity and keen insights will be deeply missed at the state Capitol. In conferring this award, we celebrate not only Sen. Becker’s important work over the past year, but her career in the Washington State Senate.