State Law

Washington Admin. Code-Title 284-Chapter 284-170-Subchapter C. Provider Contracts and Payment

08/28/2023 Washington Sections 284-170-421 (administrative rule) and 48.39.005 (statute)

Provider contracts-Standards-Hold harmless provisions; Definitions.

Amendments, Anti-gag clause, Anti-retaliation, Fee Schedules, Termination

See bold sections below:

Washington Administrative Code section 284-170-421. Provider contracts-Standards-Hold harmless provisions.

The execution of a contract by an issuer does not relieve the issuer of its obligations to any enrollee for the provision of health care services, nor of its responsibility for compliance with statutes or regulations. In addition to the contract form filing requirements of this subchapter, all individual provider and facility contracts must be in writing and available for review upon request by the commissioner.

(1) An issuer must establish a mechanism by which its participating providers and facilities can obtain timely information on patient eligibility for health care services and health plan benefits, including any limitations or conditions on services or benefits.

(2) Nothing contained in a participating provider or a participating facility contract may have the effect of modifying benefits, terms, or conditions contained in the health plan. In the event of any conflict between the contract and a health plan, the benefits, terms, and conditions of the health plan must govern with respect to coverage provided to enrollees.

(3) Each participating provider and participating facility contract must contain the following provisions:

“(a) {Name of provider or facility} hereby agrees that in no event, including, but not limited to nonpayment by {name of issuer}, {name of issuer’s} insolvency, or breach of this contract will {name of provider or facility} bill, charge, collect a deposit from, seek compensation, remuneration, or reimbursement from, or have any recourse against an enrollee or person acting on their behalf, other than {name of issuer}, for services provided pursuant to this contract. This provision does not prohibit collection of {deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and/or payment for noncovered services}, which have not otherwise been paid by a primary or secondary issuer in accordance with regulatory standards for coordination of benefits, from enrollees in accordance with the terms of the enrollee’s health plan.
(b) {Name of provider or facility} agrees, in the event of {name of issuer’s} insolvency, to continue to provide the services promised in this contract to enrollees of {name of issuer} for the duration of the period for which premiums on behalf of the enrollee were paid to {Name of issuer} or until the enrollee’s discharge from inpatient facilities, whichever time is greater.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this contract, nothing in this contract shall be construed to modify the rights and benefits contained in the enrollee’s health plan.
(d) {Name of provider or facility} may not bill the enrollee for covered services (except for deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance) where {name of issuer} denies payments because the provider or facility has failed to comply with the terms or conditions of this contract.
(e) {Name of provider or facility} further agrees (i) that the provisions of (a), (b), (c), and (d) of this subsection shall survive termination of this contract regardless of the cause giving rise to termination and shall be construed to be for the benefit of {name of issuer’s} enrollees, and (ii) that this provision supersedes any oral or written contrary agreement now existing or hereafter entered into between {name of provider or facility} and enrollees or persons acting on their behalf.
(f) If {name of provider or facility} contracts with other providers or facilities who agree to provide covered services to enrollees of {name of issuer} with the expectation of receiving payment directly or indirectly from {name of issuer}, such providers or facilities must agree to abide by the provisions of (a), (b), (c), (d), and (e) of this subsection.”

(4) The contract must inform participating providers and facilities that willfully collecting or attempting to collect an amount from an enrollee knowing that collection to be in violation of the participating provider or facility contract constitutes a class C felony under RCW 48.80.030(5).

(5) An issuer must notify participating providers and facilities of their responsibilities with respect to the health issuer’s applicable administrative policies and programs, including but not limited to payment terms, utilization review, quality assessment and improvement programs, credentialing, grievance, appeal and adverse benefit determination procedures, data reporting requirements, pharmacy benefit substitution processes, confidentiality requirements and any applicable federal or state requirements.

(6) An issuer must make all documents, procedures, and other administrative policies and programs referenced in the contract available for review by the provider or facility prior to contracting. An issuer may comply with this subsection by providing electronic access.

Fee Schedules; Amendments; Termination

(a) Participating providers and facilities must be given reasonable notice of not less than sixty days of changes that affect provider or facility compensation or that affect health care service delivery unless changes to federal or state law or regulations make such advance notice impossible, in which case notice must be provided as soon as possible.

(b)(i) Subject to any termination and continuity of care provisions of the contract, a provider or facility may terminate the contract without penalty if the provider or facility does not agree with the changes, subject to the requirements in subsection (9) of this section.

(ii) A material amendment to a contract may be rejected by a provider or facility. The rejection will not affect the terms of the existing contract. A material amendment has the same meaning as in RCW 48.39.005.

(c) No change to the contract may be made retroactive without the express written consent of the provider or facility.

(d) An issuer must give a provider or facility full access to the coverage and service terms of the applicable health plan for an enrolled patient.

Anti-gag Clause; Anti-retaliation

(7) Each participating provider and participating facility contract must contain the following provisions:

(a) “No health carrier subject to the jurisdiction of the state of Washington may in any way preclude or discourage their providers from informing patients of the care they require, including various treatment options, and whether in their view such care is consistent with medical necessity, medical appropriateness, or otherwise covered by the patient’s service agreement with the health carrier. No health carrier may prohibit, discourage, or penalize a provider otherwise practicing in compliance with the law from advocating on behalf of a patient with a health carrier. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize providers to bind health carriers to pay for any service.”

(b) “No health carrier may preclude or discourage patients or those paying for their coverage from discussing the comparative merits of different health carriers with their providers. This prohibition specifically includes prohibiting or limiting providers participating in those discussions even if critical of a carrier.”

(8) Subject to applicable state and federal laws related to the confidentiality of medical or health records, an issuer must require participating providers and facilities to make health records available to appropriate state and federal authorities involved in assessing the quality of care or investigating complaints, grievances, appeals, or review of any adverse benefit determinations of enrollees. An issuer must require providers and facilities to cooperate with audit reviews of encounter data in relation to the administration of health plan risk adjustment and reinsurance programs.


(9) An issuer and participating provider and facility must provide at least sixty days’ written notice to each other before terminating the contract without cause.

(10) Whether the termination was for cause, or without cause, the issuer must make a good faith effort to ensure written notice of a termination is provided at least thirty days prior to the effective date of the termination or immediately for a termination for cause that results in less than thirty days notice to a provider or carrier to all enrollees who are patients seen:

(a) On a regular basis by a specialist;

(b) By a provider for whom they have a standing referral; or

(c) By a primary care provider.

(11) An issuer is responsible for ensuring that participating providers and facilities furnish covered services to each enrollee without regard to the enrollee’s enrollment in the plan as a private purchaser of the plan or as a participant in publicly financed programs of health care services. This requirement does not apply to circumstances when the provider should not render services due to limitations arising from lack of training, experience, skill, or licensing restrictions.


(12) An issuer must not penalize a provider because the provider, in good faith, reports to state or federal authorities any act or practice by the issuer that jeopardizes patient health or welfare or that may violate state or federal law.

(13) Every participating provider contract must contain procedures for the fair resolution of disputes arising out of the contract.

(14) Participating provider and facility contracts entered into prior to the effective date of these rules must be amended upon renewal to comply with these rules, and all such contracts must conform to these provisions no later than July 1, 2016. The commissioner may extend the July 1, 2016, deadline for an issuer for an additional one year, if the issuer makes a written request. That request must explain how a good faith effort at compliance has been made, provide the specific reasons the deadline cannot be met, and state the date the issuer expects to be in compliance (no more than one year beyond July 1, 2016).


Revised Code of Washington section 48.39.005. Definitions

The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter unless the context clearly requires otherwise.

(1) “Health care provider” or “provider” has the same meaning as in RCW 48.43.005 and, for the purposes of this chapter, includes facilities licensed under chapter 70.41 RCW.


(2) “Material amendment” means an amendment to a contract between a payor and health care provider that would result in requiring a health care provider to participate in a health plan, product, or line of business with a lower fee schedule in order to continue to participate in a health plan, product, or line of business with a higher fee schedule. A material amendment does not include any of the following:

(a) A decrease in payment or compensation resulting from a change in a fee schedule published by the payor upon which the payment or compensation is based and the date of applicability is clearly identified in the contract, compensation addendum, or fee schedule notice;

(b) A decrease in payment or compensation that was anticipated under the terms of the contract, if the amount and date of applicability of the decrease is clearly identified in the contract; or

(c) Changes unrelated to compensation so long as reasonable notice of not less than sixty days is provided.

(3) “Payor” or “third-party payor” means carriers licensed under chapters 48.20, 48.21, 48.44, and 48.46 RCW, and managed health care systems as defined in RCW 74.09.522.