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Washington State Suspends Plan to Refuse “Unnecessary” Medicaid visits to EDs

In a victory for emergency physicians and their patients, Washington State has abandoned a controversial plan to refuse payment for Medicaid visits to EDs later deemed “non-urgent.” Hospital and physicians’ groups—including the Washington Chapter of ACEP—mounted a strong campaign to oppose the plan, arguing that it would shift costs to hospitals and emergency physicians and deny payment for treatment of legitimate medical emergencies.

The plan was scheduled to go into effect on Sunday, April 1, but Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Friday that it would be suspended. Washington’s budget director, Marty Brown, cited growing support in the legislature for a less drastic alternative.

In a disturbing trend, several states have considered bridging large budget deficits on the backs of emergency physicians and Medicaid patients. Washington State has been a flashpoint in this debate. So far, patient advocates and physicians have been successful in stopping implementation of these bad policies.

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