5 Things Washington: Consequential Health Legislation, Rep. June Robinson, Aetna Hiring

If you aren’t paying really close attention, there is a lot of movement in Washington State health care these days. The session has a number of consequential bills. There are some interesting and strategic hires taking place across multiple organizations. And, it feels like the political pressure underlying some of this movement is likely to build as the 2020 primaries build steam.


DJ 5 Things SignatureWith help from Emily Boerger,
Sara Gentzler, and Marjie High


1. A consequential year for health legislation

The 2019 legislative session is becoming an extremely consequential year for health care – perhaps more so than was originally expected. In the lead up to session, behavioral health transformation was teed up as the key health priority, but this year, health care has dominated the conversation in Olympia in additional, far-reaching ways.

Sara Gentzler on our team has been reporting on these issues full time in Olympia this session where big items like Washington’s public option bills and the Long-Term Care Trust Act are moving forward. Legislation related to balance billing, tele-medicine, vaccine exemptions, tobacco use, and pricing transparency also all have momentum.


2. Jay Fathi announces for Seattle City Council

Jay Fathi,MD is running for the seat Mike O’Brien is vacating on the Seattle City Council.  He joins a crowded field of 8 candidates in the district race. Fathi was previously the President/CEO of Coordinated Care, a Medicaid plan, where he grew the plan from 34,000 members to over 250,000. He left at the end of 2017.

From his website: “From caring for families at the NeighborCare Health 45th Street Community Clinic, to teaching the health care leaders of the future through the UW, to helping expand health care access across Washington under the Affordable Care Act, I’ve worked to improve the lives of thousands of vulnerable adults, children and families in our community.”

3. Moves to address oral health access

HB 1317 passed out of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee this week pushing forward the expanded practice of dental therapists in the state. The bill expands on the federal Dental Health Aid Program that allows dental therapist practice on tribal lands, increasing access to dental services in rural and under-resourced areas demonstrating the recognition that oral health is an important component and foundation of overall health.

Arcora Foundation is also innovating around oral heath access and integration through its Local Impacts Networks approach. The networks leverage existing community structures to increase education and access to oral health services to impact oral health disparities. They began in Spokane in 2017, partnering with Smile Spokane, and expanded in 2018, to Thurston County, partnering with CHOICE Regional Health Network, and most recently to Olympic Community of Health and North Sound ACH, two ACHs that chose oral health initiatives as a focus.

4.  Video: Representative June Robinson

State Representative June Robinson represents Washington’s 38th LD and is a member of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee. She is also the 1st Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching,” which was recorded right before the start of session, to discuss two of her priority bills. One is a drug pricing transparency bill that passed out of committee and was referred to Appropriations last week. The other is a bill related to foundational public health services that had its public hearing in Appropriations yesterday.

In reference to her drug pricing transparency bill, Robinson says, “It’s one of a number of bills that we’ll have this session that I see as really trying to shine some light in the black boxes and create some transparency in the health care field. A lot of health care is paid for with public dollars and yet there’s surprisingly a little amount of transparency in a lot of those areas.”


5.  Aetna looking to expand into WA Medicaid?

The national carrier currently has nine job postings based in Washington State, one of which is for a Medicaid Business Development Director. The position is “responsible for identifying, developing and executing on a growth strategy that results in new Medicaid managed care contracts and expansion of current business contracts.”

This is an interesting move. On the one hand, there isn’t another general Medicaid MCO procurement on the horizon in Washington State. On the other, figuring out how to manage pharmacy costs continues to be a focus for the HCA.  And, with the new CVS/Aetna merger now complete, perhaps this speaks to a new value proposition the organization can provide to states like Washington.  We’ll see.