5 Things Washington: Rep. Cody, Spokane’s Bail Project, Carmen Mendez

We are gearing up for our 2019 Inland NW State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Spokane on Sept. 10th. I expect we’ll have a crowd of about 300 folks from across the spectrum of both policy and market activity – and we’d love to have you join us if you’re able. Big thanks to our Event Sponsors:  Amerigroup, Empire Health Foundation, and WSU!  We’ll have our Topical Agenda out for your review in a few weeks, so stay tuned.


With help from Emily Boerger
and Sara Gentzler



1. Q&A w/ Rep. Eileen Cody

Rep. Eileen Cody is the Chair of the House Health and Wellness Committee and a long-time health policy leader in the Washington State legislature. She’s also one of the best health care legislators I’ve seen in any of the states we follow, which now numbers nine. Reporter Emily Boerger caught up with Rep. Cody for a look back at the 2019 session in this Q&A.

Among the topics they discussed: key bills that passed this year — including surprise billing and opioid legislation — and where Washington’s health policy conversation is headed next. Cody also discussed her biggest budgetary concern: “I worry that we keep giving jobs to the Health Care Authority. They’ve got mental health, and now they’re going to have to do the bids for public option, and we keep not giving them the money.”

2. Cold water from California

Washington’s recently signed prescription drug cost transparency bill requires the HCA to reach out to agencies in California and Oregon to come up with strategies to reduce prescription drug costs and increase transparency. However, recent comments from Jennifer Kent, Director of California’s Department of Health Care Services, seem to throw cold water on the states teaming up — at least when it comes to establishing a Medicaid prescription bulk purchasing partnership.

In a recent POLITICO California Pro Q&A, Kent discussed working with Oregon and Washington on bulk purchasing. She says, “Their leadership in those states have said we want to join our Medicaid programs with your Medicaid program and let’s just buy all together. And we’re like, you combined as two Medicaid programs are a million people. We’re 13 million. So the purchasing and negotiation for us doesn’t get us anything.”

3. Two new Spokane projects to know about

Two new projects in Spokane are finding success connecting individuals to health services and resources within the community. Spokane’s Community Diversion Unit (CDU) pairs mental health professionals and police to respond to individuals in the community experiencing homelessness or mental health crises. Working side-by-side, the co-deployed teams aim to divert individuals away from jails and hospitals and connect them to services.

The other project, launched through the national nonprofit Bail Project, helps certain individuals get out of jail while they await trial. About two-thirds of Spokane’s jail population haven’t been convicted and are simply awaiting trial; about 90 percent of those pre-trial individuals cannot afford bail. In Spokane, two of the biggest barriers Bail Project clients face are homelessness and substance abuse. Community partners — such as Empire Health Foundation, Consistent Care, and WestCare Foundation — work with those clients to connect them to services like transportation assistance or medical and mental health treatment.

4. Video: Carmen Méndez, Yakima City Council

Carmen Méndez is a Yakima City Councilmember and is on the Arcora Foundation Board of Trustees. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss tele-dentistry.

“Last year, I took a trip with the Arcora Foundation to Alaska and we had a great opportunity to see how tele-dentistry works in a rural community and the impact that it’s been making with the Native American community there. So, the fact that they’re able to call in through the tele-dentistry method has been great for that community and they’ve seen a huge difference in oral health outcomes.”


5. Ferguson vs. Trump Administration, Round 38

This week, Attorney General Bob Ferguson (and likely candidate for Governor in 2020) filed a suit challenging the Dept. of Health and Human Service’s recently issued “conscience rule,” which will allow health professionals to delay or refuse certain types of medical care based on their moral or religious beliefs, with no exceptions in the case of emergencies. The filing marks Ferguson’s 38th lawsuit against the Trump Administration.

Ferguson argues the rule will harm Washingtonians and disproportionately impact poorer individuals and those in rural areas, which is a reason he cited for filing the suit in Spokane. Roger Severino, Office for Civil Rights Director at HHS, argues that the rule “ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.”