5 Things Washington: Western State Hospital, OIC update, Catherine Brazil

DJ is taking a well deserved vacation, so I’ll be bringing you the next two editions of 5 Things We’re Watching. I’m usually covering health policy in Washington, and a number of other states. Feel free to email me any feedback or tips. DJ will be back in July, but until then, here’s what we’re watching in Washington health care.

Kylie Walsh
State of Reform


1.  Western State Hospital loses federal certification

CMS has notified the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) that Western State Hospital has lost its federal certification, and $53 million in federal funding. Despite improvements over the last two years, Western did not meet the Medicare Conditions of Participation in four areas: governing body, quality assessments and performance improvement, nursing services, and physical environment.

Western will lose about 20 percent of its funding. Starting July 9th, Medicare will not pay for new patients. Payments for existing patients can continue for up to 30 days. DSHS says improvements will continue to be made at Western and the report supports Governor Inslee’s five year plan to transform the state’s mental health system. We have comments from Reps. Laurie Jinkins and Christine Kilduff here.


2.  Update from the Insurance Commissioner

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner hosted its Health Policy Round Table last week. We have the details for you here on the current proposed rule-making activity and the 2019 legislative agenda. Two topics on the 2019 agenda include working to end surprise billing, which failed last session, and adopting the Insurance Data Security Model Law to increase cyber-security.

The OIC recently released a stakeholder draft of a rule on short-term medical plans. The OIC acknowledged the “legitimate need” for these plans in the market. The rule would uphold the plans’ exemptions from the ACA but would require consumers acknowledge they understand what services and conditions the plans will cover. The rule would also restrict coverage to a non-renewable 3 month period.


3.  Jayapal introduces Medicare for All legislation

Congresswoman Jayapal has introduced the State-Based Universal Health Care Act of 2018. States could create their own health plans to achieve universal access to health care through a 1332 waiver. States would have to insure 95 percent of residents in 5 years and the state-based plan would replace nearly all other forms of coverage.

Given the current political climate, Jayapal’s bill is unlikely to pass out of Congress. But it does reinforce the idea that states are best equipped to develop innovative solutions. Washington had at least three bills die in committee last session (HB 1026SB 5701, and SB 5747) that would have created a state trust to provide health coverage for all state residents. There’s a single payer initiative collecting signatures to qualify for the November ballot. We’re expecting more local efforts as the single-payer conversation stalls at the federal level.


4. Video: Catherine Brazil, UW

Catherine Brazil is the Director for Spokane & Eastern Washington Relations at the University of Washington. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss how UW is addressing rural medical education.

“We have a five-state regional program for our medical school. It’s called the WWAMI program, so it’s Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. And students from each one of those states along with students from Washington State all work together with our medical school to be out in rural areas. So we’re really happy to know and really pleased to have the WWAMI program.”



5.  Suicide rates increase in Washington

recent report by the CDC shows that the national suicide rate increased by over 25 percent from 1999 to 2016. Washington’s suicide rate increased by 18.8 percent during that time period.

Washington’s suicide rate has remained slightly higher than the national rate since 1999. In 2016, the national average was 15.4 per 100,000 and Washington’s rate was 17.6. But the rate varies by county, with Clallam County reporting 31.7 compared to Grant County’s 7.5 per 100,000 in 2015.