5 Things Washington: Rep. June Robinson, Health care apprenticeships, Brenda Gleason

I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July! In this edition of 5 Things We’re Watching we have an interview with Representative June Robinson, coverage of new efforts to support Washington’s health care workforce, and a rundown on federal legislation that looks to reduce out-of-pocket health care costs.

DJ will be back for the next edition, but until then, here’s what we’re watching in Washington health care.

Emily Boerger
State of Reform


1. Q&A with Rep. June Robinson

Representative June Robinson represents Washington’s 38th Legislative District in Snohomish County. She serves as both a member of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee as well as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee.

I spoke with Rep. Robinson about health care in the 2019 session and the challenges of writing a state budget in this Q&A. We also discussed the upcoming House Speaker election where she says, “It’s one of those things where there’s just times in your life where you feel like you need to step forward and move into a space where leadership is needed… I care a lot about what happens both to our caucus, to our legislature, and to our state in the future and chose to put my name forward to see what happens.”


2. Arcora announces over $550,000 in grant money

Arcora Foundation has announced it will award $450,500 in grant money across four health organizations in Washington to help create dental clinics and expand access to care. HealthPoint Medical Clinic in SeaTac, International Community Health Services (ICHS) Foundation, Klickitat Valley Public Hospital District #1, and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will receive the grants. According to Arcora, this funding will enable 23,000 more dental visits for low-income individuals per year.

Arcora also awarded a $100,000 grant to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe for increased access to dental care and additional health services. The grant will expand the existing dental clinic into the Tribe’s new Health Services Building, providing all services — physical, oral, and behavioral health — in one place. The Tribe estimates this clinic will serve 352 more patients a year and result in 2,888 additional patient visits a year.

3. Kaiser Permanente on health care workforce

By 2021, Washington is expected to have 740,000 job openings. Many of these high-demand jobs will be in the STEM and health care fields and will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential such as a degree or apprenticeship. To help fill these positions, lawmakers this year allocated $24 million in funding for Career Connect Washington, with $1.6 million slated for expanding health care apprenticeships.

One of the first major outcomes from Career Connect Washington is Kaiser Permanente’s new Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program which is set to have its first cohort of students begin this fall. The program was created in partnership with SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and their Multi-Employer Training Fund. The 12-24 month program will provide about 20 students with 2,000 hours of on the job training, along with 288 hours of classroom instruction to become a medical assistant. We cover the details of the program, along with some of Kaiser’s other workforce development programs, here.


4. Video: Brenda Gleason, M2 Health Care Consulting

Brenda Gleason is the President of M2 Health Care Consulting. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss keeping insurance premiums affordable.

“One of the solutions, for instance, could be standardized benefit design or doing something that would allow more people to buy into a broader pool… We have to be able to spread risk along a broader range of people in order to really get some of these health care premiums to go down.”


5. “Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019”

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray recently introduced the “Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.” The bipartisan bill includes 54 different proposals from 65 senators (36 Democrats and 29 Republicans), all aimed at lowering the cost of health care.

Key proposals include ending the practice of surprise billing, reducing the prices of prescription drugs, increasing cost transparency, and improving public health. The bill recently passed out of committee on a 20-3 vote, and Alexander says he will urge Senate leadership to bring it to the floor for a vote before the end of this month. Check out our rundown of the committee hearing and what’s included in the bill here.