(1) A health carrier, health care facility, health care provider, or other person involved in the development, delivery, or marketing of health care or health plans may request, in writing, that the department of health obtain an informal opinion from the attorney general as to whether particular conduct is authorized by chapter 492, Laws of 1993. Trade secret or proprietary information contained in a request for informal opinion shall be identified as such and shall not be disclosed other than to an authorized employee of the department of health or attorney general without the consent of the party making the request, except that information in summary or aggregate form and market share data may be contained in the informal opinion issued by the attorney general. The attorney general shall issue such opinion within thirty days of receipt of a written request for an opinion or within thirty days of receipt of any additional information requested by the attorney general necessary for rendering an opinion unless extended by the attorney general for good cause shown. If the attorney general concludes that such conduct is not authorized by chapter 492, Laws of 1993, the person or organization making the request may petition the department of health for review and approval of such conduct in accordance with subsection (3) of this section.
(2) After obtaining the written opinion of the attorney general and consistent with such opinion, the department of health:
(a) May authorize conduct by a health carrier, health care facility, health care provider, or any other person that could tend to lessen competition in the relevant market upon a strong showing that the conduct is likely to achieve the policy goals of chapter 492, Laws of 1993 and a more competitive alternative is impractical;
(b) Shall adopt rules governing conduct among providers, health care facilities, and health carriers including rules governing provider and facility contracts with health carriers, rules governing the use of "most favored nation" clauses and exclusive dealing clauses in such contracts, and rules providing that health carriers in rural areas contract with a sufficient number and type of health care providers and facilities to ensure consumer access to local health care services;
(c) Shall adopt rules permitting health care providers within the service area of a plan to collectively negotiate the terms and conditions of contracts with a health carrier including the ability of providers to meet and communicate for the purposes of these negotiations;
(d) Shall adopt rules governing cooperative activities among health care facilities and providers; and
(e) Effective July 1, 1997, in addition to the rule-making authority granted to the department under this section, the department shall have the authority to enforce and administer rules previously adopted by the health services commission and the health care policy board pursuant to RCW 43.72.310
(3) A health carrier, health care facility, health care provider, or any other person involved in the development, delivery, and marketing of health care services or health plans may file a written petition with the department of health requesting approval of conduct that could tend to lessen competition in the relevant market. Such petition shall be filed in a form and manner prescribed by rule of the department of health.
The department of health shall issue a written decision approving or denying a petition filed under this section within ninety days of receipt of a properly completed written petition unless extended by the department of health for good cause shown. The decision shall set forth findings as to benefits and disadvantages and conclusions as to whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
(4) In authorizing conduct and adopting rules of conduct under this section, the department of health with the advice of the attorney general, shall consider the benefits of such conduct in furthering the goals of health care reform including but not limited to:
(a) Enhancement of the quality of health services to consumers;
(b) Gains in cost efficiency of health services;
(c) Improvements in utilization of health services and equipment;
(d) Avoidance of duplication of health services resources; or
(e) And as to (b) and (c) of this subsection: (i) Facilitates the exchange of information relating to performance expectations; (ii) simplifies the negotiation of delivery arrangements and relationships; and (iii) reduces the transactions costs on the part of health carriers and providers in negotiating more cost-effective delivery arrangements.
These benefits must outweigh disadvantages including and not limited to:
(i) Reduced competition among health carriers, health care providers, or health care facilities;
(ii) Adverse impact on quality, availability, or price of health care services to consumers; or
(iii) The availability of arrangements less restrictive to competition that achieve the same benefits.
(5) Conduct authorized by the department of health shall be deemed taken pursuant to state statute and in the furtherance of the public purposes of the state of Washington.
(6) With the assistance of the attorney general's office, the department of health shall actively supervise any conduct authorized under this section to determine whether such conduct or rules permitting certain conduct should be continued and whether a more competitive alternative is practical. The department of health shall periodically review petitioned conduct through, at least, annual progress reports from petitioners, annual or more frequent reviews by the department of health that evaluate whether the conduct is consistent with the petition, and whether the benefits continue to outweigh any disadvantages. If the department of health determines that the likely benefits of any conduct approved through rule, petition, or otherwise by the department of health no longer outweigh the disadvantages attributable to potential reduction in competition, the department of health shall order a modification or discontinuance of such conduct. Conduct ordered discontinued by the department of health shall no longer be deemed to be taken pursuant to state statute and in the furtherance of the public purposes of the state of Washington.
(7) Nothing contained in chapter 492, Laws of 1993 is intended to in any way limit the ability of rural hospital districts to enter into cooperative agreements and contracts pursuant to RCW 70.44.450
and chapter 39.34
(8) The secretary of health shall from time to time establish fees to accompany the filing of a petition or a written request to the department to obtain an opinion from the attorney general under this section and for the active supervision of conduct approved under this section. Such fees may vary according to the size of the transaction proposed in the petition or under active supervision. In setting such fees, the secretary shall consider that consumers and the public benefit when activities meeting the standards of this section are permitted to proceed; the importance of assuring that persons sponsoring beneficial activities are not foreclosed from filing a petition under this section because of the fee; and the necessity to avoid a conflict, or the appearance of a conflict, between the interests of the department and the public. The total fee for a petition under this section, a written request to the department to obtain an opinion from the attorney general, or a combination of both regarding the same conduct shall not exceed the level that will defray the reasonable costs the department and attorney general incur in considering a petition and in no event shall be greater than twenty-five thousand dollars. The fee for review of approved conduct shall not exceed the level that will defray the reasonable costs the department and attorney general incur in conducting such a review and in no event shall be greater than ten thousand dollars per annum. The fees shall be fixed by rule adopted in accordance with the provisions of the administrative procedure act, chapter 34.05
RCW, and shall be deposited in the health professions account established in accordance with RCW 43.70.320
[1997 c 274 § 7; 1995 c 267 § 8; 1993 c 492 § 448.]
Effective date—1997 c 274:
See note following RCW 41.05.021
Captions not law—Severability—Effective dates—1995 c 267:
See notes following RCW 43.70.052