5 Things Washington: Q&A with Sen. David Frockt, Behavioral health funding, Mary McWilliams

The session is moving into its final stages, with a good possibility that the legislature could conclude early by a day or two. Both chambers and both parties are working relatively smoothly together (we’ll overlook this week’s failed vote on bonds for the capital budget), to their credit.

In this “golden age of television,” Gov. Inslee will be at a CNN Town Hall this evening. Maybe save yourself for GoT this Sunday?


With help from Emily Boerger
and Sara Gentzler.



1. Q&A: Sen. David Frockt on Cascade Care

Sen. David Frockt is the prime sponsor of the Senate’s public option bill, often referred to as Cascade Care. The legislation is still alive as it passed out of the opposite chamber’s fiscal committee on Monday. In this Q&A, Sen. Frockt told reporter Sara Gentzler what had changed ahead of those votes and what’s still evolving.

Thanks to a striking amendment from Frockt, the two bills looked the same after they crossed over to the opposite chambers. Frockt says that reimbursement rates remained central to discussion. However, Monday, the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the Senate bill that – among other changes – moved Medicare reimbursement rates up to an aggregate of 150% and set a reimbursement-rate floor for primary care physicians. This is a sign that things are still very much in play with 18 days left in the regular session.

2. Health care legislation on the Gov’s desk

Last week Gov. Inslee signed five health bills into law. The legislation includes the Tobacco 21 billa bill aimed at improving network adequacy of mental health and substance abuse treatment providers, and a bill requested by the Department of Health related to foundational public health services. Gov. Inslee also signed HB 1399, which makes changes to the Paid Family Medical Leave Act, and HB 1349, which looks to address the shortage of geriatric behavioral health workers.

Pieces of health legislation that have made it through both chambers but have not yet been signed include: HB 1870 which codifies provisions of the ACA into state law, along with two of Senator Randi Becker’s telemedicine bills (SB 5386 & SB 5387).

3. FAIR Health white paper

National nonprofit FAIR Health recently released its second annual white paper, using data from a repository of over 28 billion claim records to analyze trends in place of service for health care. Data shows the utilization of alternative places of care, such as retail clinics and telehealth, continues to rise in the United States.

Reporter Emily Boerger spoke with FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd about her key takeaways from the white paper. You will recall she gave a keynote at this year’s Seattle conference. “The health care system is evolving, and it is interesting to see how these new venues are taking shape and really having an impact on where people are seeking care,” Gelburd said. “What’s fascinating is you cannot look at any of these venues through a single lens – it really varies in terms of age, demographics, geography, and the level of utilization of these facilities.”

4. Video: Mary McWilliams, Virginia Mason

Mary McWilliams is a board member at Virginia Mason. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss Centers of Excellence.

“We’re a Center of Excellence for Walmart. And not only are we kind of a source for specialized surgery, but we found that in a lot of cases the patients don’t need surgery and we’re able to send them back with other modalities to try…It is a challenge financially, but you know our CEO and the organization as a whole really believes in the importance of having high-value care and doing the right thing for the patient.”


5. Budgets prioritize behavioral health funding

Heading into session, Senator Steve O’Ban described reforming the state’s mental and behavioral health system as Washington’s “McCleary 2.0.” Now, as budget proposals are debated, amended and voted on, behavioral health investments are getting a boost.

Both chambers’ capital budgets include at least $115 million for Behavioral Health Capacity Grants – with the House’s version dedicating $73 million to 19 specific projects related to community behavioral health expansion. The most recently passed version of the Senate’s operating budget includes $21.9 million for safety measures at Western State Hospital, $55 million for increased staffing at Western and Eastern State Hospitals, and $84 million for expanded community-based services and beds.