5 Things Washington: Q&A with Sen. O’Ban, Legislative Update, Beth Johnson

It’s day 58 of the 2019 Washington State legislature – one that will go down as a big session for health care in a way that few people may have fully appreciated at the start of the new year. It’s certainly one of the things we’re watching this month in Washington State health care.

As always, thank you for reading our stuff and for your support of State of Reform.


DJ 5 Things Signature

With help from Emily Boerger
and Sara Gentzler.


1. Costs in health care: deck chairs and the Titanic

Cost is increasingly the paramount issue in health care today. That’s not news. But, for as common as this knowledge is, we aren’t always as honest about cost as we could be. We also sometimes try to make it more complicated than we should. In this two part series, I suggest there are really only two kinds of costs: deck chairs and the Titanic.

I spend a fair amount of time with numbers, data, and metaphor in the series. But, after stewing in the national health expenditure data from CMS for a while, in part two we get to the bottom line: Market leverage has more impact on driving cost increases than both utilization and the costs from service delivery combined. Moreover, it appears that this is the first time in American health care history that this is the case.


2. Q&A with Sen. Steve O’Ban on behavioral health

Sen. Steve O’Ban represents Washington’s 28th Legislative District in Pierce County, home to Western State Hospital. O’Ban works on behavioral health in and out of the Legislature, where he serves as ranking member of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee and on the Behavioral Health Subcommittee. Reporter Sara Gentzler talks to him about behavioral health legislation this session in this Q&A.

“I think we need to really face this issue much like we did education over the last several years,” O’Ban says. “We understood—independently from the court, but certainly reinforced by the McCleary decision—that we needed to invest in a new way in education.”

3. Molina partners with Amazon to offer Medicaid members “Prime on Us”

Molina Healthcare of Washington announced last week that it will partner with Amazon to address access to healthy food and health products for Molina Medicaid members. The partnership will provide Washington Molina adult members 90 days of complimentary “Prime on Us” services followed by the option to continue monthly membership at a discount should they choose.

Phase two of the strategy will transition Molina health incentive rewards to Amazon gift cards to help defray members’ costs for healthy items. The final phase will involve an integrated digital shopping experience targeted toward continued health improvement. Molina President Peter Adler commented on the effort, “You know, there’s no magic bullet when you get to the social determinants of health, but we think this will really make a difference.”

4.  Video: Beth Johnson, Coordinated Care

Beth Johnson is the President and CEO of Coordinated Care. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss plan-provider relationships and changes to Coordinated Care in 2019.

“An area that we need to continue to focus on is actually our provider relationships. I think it’s an area that as we were very much looking into building out our network and servicing the network, I don’t think we paid as much attention or showed up as well as we needed to with the provider community. So that’s a big area of focus of ours, that we’re showing up, and following up, and providing the infrastructure and support that they need to support the members in our programs.”


5. Fifty-five health care bills still alive

Tomorrow’s the deadline for non-budget-related bills to pass out of their house of origin. As of this morning, 36 bills that started in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee have passed over to the Senate. And 19 bills that were first heard in the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee have passed off the floor and into the House.

Included in the mix still are both public-option bills. The House bill passed off the floor last week with a few changes. The amended bill sets new requirements for Cascade Care plans that will be offered on the exchange and allows for non-standardized plans, requiring the exchange and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to analyze the impact of offering only standard plans beginning in 2025. The Senate bill is on the floor calendar after it was tweaked in committee.