5 Things Washington: 2019 session wrap-up, Wellfound BH Hospital, Sarah Arnquist

The session’s over but the dust has yet to settle. It was a big session for health care.  We feature some elements of the session below, including some contextual analysis about what some of it means.  But, it’s notable that each of the four caucuses had stand out efforts by individuals this session on health care in ways that we haven’t always seen.  Sen. David Frockt, Sen. Randi Becker, Rep. Laurie Jinkins and Rep. Paul Harris all had good sessions – the kind that would have made for a significant health care session on their own, but which all came together in one year.


With help from Emily Boerger
and Sara Gentzler



1. 2019 legislative session wrap-up

This year, Washington State passed a number of consequential health care-related bills — from high-profile legislation like the public option and the Long-Term Care Trust Act, to lesser-covered health bills that passed, including ACA protectionsnetwork adequacy legislation, surprise billing, and the Reproductive Health Access for All Act.

During the last week of session, Reporter Sara Gentzler caught up with two of the Legislature’s leading voices on health policy for their perspectives on how the 2019 session shaped up. In this Q&A, Sen. Randi Becker discusses her vision for telemedicine in Washington and work done this year in the new Behavioral Health Subcommittee. And in this Q&A, Rep. Laurie Jinkins reflects on the passage of the Long-Term Care Trust Act, behavioral health funding in the budget, and her biggest disappointment of the session: an HIV modernization bill that failed to pass.


2. Coverage of the public option bill

In total, we posted 11 stories, commentary and pieces of analysis on the public option bill. That includes Sara Gentzler’s run down of what was actually in the bill, and a run down by Emily Boerger of what stakeholders across the spectrum think about it. I don’t believe there were 11 stories written on the bill by the rest of the Washington state media community combined – something we feel pretty good about…

But, while the bill was meaningful, it was modest. For all of the gnashing of teeth, the more important takeaways for me extend beyond this specific bill.  I think there are four elements that might otherwise get missed that I outline here. Here’s a big one: this bill creates a framework to make future legislation easier to pass that can drive down costs in healthcare much more aggressively than this bill does on its own.

3. Video: Sarah Arnquist, Beacon Health Options

Sarah Arnquist is the Vice President of Client Partnerships Beacon Health Options. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss expanding crises services in Washington.

“We have a crisis continuum of care framework that we use to help us evaluate the crisis services in the community and identify areas for investments and improvements. A lot of the time we found that we can make significant improvements and gains simply by getting people to talk together and to coordinate better on the logistics of a system — they don’t always require a ton of new financial resources.”


4. Convening Panel meets next week

Our Convening Panel is getting together next week to start planning the agenda for the 2019 Inland Northwest State of Reform Health Policy Conference. This is a group of diverse voices, who are each working to move health care and health policy forward in different ways.

We’ll talk through the various topics and conversations that Washington will be having by the time our September 10th event rolls around. So, if you have ideas or topics for suggestion, or if you’d like to join our Convening Panel process, let me know. I’ll make sure your feedback is in the mix as we sort through the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is a State of Reform agenda!

5. New behavioral health hospital opens in Tacoma

Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital, a 120-bed facility providing short-term voluntary and involuntary admissions for adults, began accepting its first patients last week. CEO Maureen Womack, who moved to Tacoma from Arizona to lead the new hospital, told State of Reform that Wellfound should serve as a single point of access with the goal to keep patients in the least restrictive level of care possible.

The hospital is a joint venture between CHI Franciscan and MultiCare, the two biggest health systems in Pierce County. “You’ve got two friendly competitors who realize the greater good is more important than their individual needs,” Womack said.