5 Things WA: US Senate, MultiCare, Merissa Clyde

Who knows how this day will end in DC, though it appears Republicans are falling into line for a vote for debate to begin in the Senate. That vote is happening now. Watch it here.

That, and a few other important things are what we have our eye on in this edition of 5 Things We’re Watching in Washington State healthcare.

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1.  Races to watch in next week’s primary

The primary election is next Tuesday, and a few races may have implications for health policy. Perhaps most directly impactful is the 45th Senate race. Jinyoung Englund (R) and Manka Dhingra (D) have both raised about $650k in a race that will likely determine control of the State Senate.

Also worth watching are Senate races in King Co’s 31st LD and Eastern WA’s 7th LD. Both are usually reliable Republican districts, and will very likely stay that way. Democratic candidates aren’t raising real money in either race. But, if the vote totals are close – perhaps as a result of DC, Trump, or a long session – that would mobilize stakeholders across the country for both sides.

Likewise, the Seattle mayor’s race has a crowded field where Jenny Durkan has a firm lead. The question is who will be the #2?  If commercials were what counted most, Nikkita Oliver would likely win with this one.

2.  Topical Agenda for Inland NW conference

We are out with our Topical Agenda for the 2017 Inland NW State of Reform Health Policy Conference!  Take a look here.

As usual, this agenda reflects hours of conversations with health care stakeholders across the state.  That process starts with our Convening Panel, and continues now through our speaker recruitment work.  I expect we’ll have about 65 speakers with us when this agenda is finalized.  So, we’ll be working through the summer to put it together.

If there are panels that you think are most interesting, and for which you’d like to propose a speaker, drop me a note. I’d love to hear your ideas. You can register to be with us here.

3.  Moving pieces in DC today

As of this writing, Sen. McConnell still plans a vote on a bill of some sort related to health care reform.  However, failure is perhaps the most likely option.  Sen. Cantwell has been vocal from the Senate floor asking last night “What are we doing here?” She also made a smart policy connection about how Medicaid expansion’s has mitigated provider reimbursement in the individual market something seldomly noted in policy circles.

Today, the White House released an email saying that “Obamacare has wreaked havoc on innocent Americans.” Meanwhile, Democrats are out with an economic agenda that could squarely take on cost issues in health care, both by addressing pharmaceutical costs and bringing greater anti-trust scrutiny to highly consolidated providers and health plans.

4.  Video:  Merissa Clyde

Merissa Clyde is the Managing Director, Health Benefits Administration at SEIU 775 Benefits Group. That is the organization that manages health care benefits for 44,000 SEIU 775 members. So, in many ways, Merissa thinks like a health plan CEO.

In this edition of “What They’re Watching,”she talks about SEIU’s potential influx of patients if they lose coverage gained under Medicaid expansion. This video was recorded in January, but given the multiple federal reform bills and their CBO scores showing a decrease in Medicaid coverage, I’d think she’d agree that her comments and concerns are just as relevant today.

5.  MultiCare is on the march

One of the more active organizations in health care today is MultiCare.  And, when I say active, I mean a force for innovation and potentially disruption. With their recent acquisition of Navos, they are now the largest behavioral health provider in the state. That will increase with news they are opening a new 120-bed behavioral health hospital in Tacoma.

Their acquisition of two CHS hospitals in Spokane has been a change strongly welcomed in that community. Practically every stakeholder I talk with in the region is thrilled to have a second, engaged health system in town after years of silence from CHS. Whereas a number of hospital systems could have trouble in a two-system, competitive market like Spokane, the Pierce County area is as competitive as they come. There, CHI Franciscan and MultiCare have dueled for decades.

I expect MultiCare to fare better in Spokane than CHS, and likely innovate there for the benefit of the community.