Regular session | Group Health Foundation | Ray Manahan

First Hillary Clinton. Then Gonzaga University. I’m not so great at picking winners, I guess. In this edition of “5 Things We’re Watching,” I imply a few other predictions about our legislature and our Congress. So, consider the source for those when you read this month’s edition.

1. Olympia: Budget and legislation

We are about a week out before we’ll see movement on the budget that might suggest the avoidance of any special sessions. While special sessions have been common in recent years, it doesn’t seem like folks care to stick around longer than these 105 days of “regular session.”

Senator O’Ban’s bill to eliminate the requirement to integrate behavioral and physical health in Medicaid (SB 5894) may have stalled in the House. Alternatively, if it passes, it’s unlikely to survive a veto by Gov. Inslee. It’s one of the most important pieces of health legislation still in play.

2. The HCA has a lot going on

Check out the HCA procurement page. There is the RFP for integrated Medicaid in North Central Washington, as well as the crisis managing entity there. There is an RFP for “foundational community supports” like supportive housing and employment. And there is the PEBB RFP out, to say nothing of the $1.35m in sole source procurements.

That’s a lot going on. It follows things like regional meetings across the state on Healthier Washington, as well as dealing with a sometimes rocky legislative session. The agency is delivering – but it’s stretched thin. And, with a looming 2020 implementation of integrated Medicaid purchasing for 35 of 39 counties, things are not likely to get easier.

3. Congress is on a two week recess, then…

This week, Congress begins two weeks of recess. Some members may have town halls, though some remain committed against them. A key question is whether we will see significant anger and protests related to health policy during this time, or whether the anxiety has been quelled given the collapse of the AHCA (and it’s failed resurrection).

More important than health reform is that Congress will have to keep government running once it returns. On April 28th, Congress’s previously approved spending authority lapses. Bi-partisan passage appears assured if the resolution maintains existing spending levels. This would mean keeping in “sequestration” cuts but not including new attacks on Planned Parenthood. It would also mean more deficit spending.

If Congress doesn’t have a majority for “repeal and replace,” it’s unclear whether a majority exists to keep government running.

4. Video: Ray Manahan

Ray Manahan is the Director of Government Programs at Providence Health and Services. He spends a lot of time thinking through how best to measure the quality of the work the system is providing – both from a care giver perspective and through an administrative process view. His thinking was part of a commentary last year from Rhonda Meadows, Prov’s EVP of population health.

From this edition of “What They’re Watching,” Ray warns against “data overload.” He says Providence is very much data driven these days, “but that data is late to the game.” Manahan says their focus is on making the data have local applicability, with a stakeholder regular check in on what the data itself is actually trying to achieve.

5. The Group Health Foundation taking shape

When Kaiser announced its take over of Group Health, it included the news that $1.8 billion would be spent to capitalize a new community foundation resulting from the deal. Last week, a full board was announced that included a number of names you’ll likely find familiar from health care circles.

Cory Sbarbaro is the Acting President and CEO and deserves significant praise. He’s been shepherding the new foundation quietly for months, even before the acquisition was approved. With Group Health execs anxious (appropriately) about gaining approval for the merger, Cory was able to calm nerves, build a team, and ground an organizational culture for a Foundation that could become among the most transformational forces in Washington State health care.