5 Things Washington: Committee Days, Diane Oakes, What You Missed

What a week! We hosted over 300 folks at our Spokane event, and followed that up by tracking legislative committee action in Olympia. So, we flag a few things for you in this issue that we think are important. But, you can always find more coverage on Washington State health policy at our site – along with eight other states where we are tracking health care and health policy action!


With help from Emily Boerger



1.  DOJ looking at Prov-Swedish deal

In a recent quarterly report from Providence St. Joseph, the hospital system disclosed that it was under investigation by the US Department of Justice. From the filing: “On July 22, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice served Swedish Health Services with a Civil Investigative Demand requesting documents pertaining to certain arrangements and joint ventures and physician organizations.”

The report shows Providence made $250m (operating income) through the first six months of 2019 on a book of business of $12.6b. Modern Healthcare provides a good run down of recent Prov headlines, both positive and negative.


2. What you missed in Spokane

We hosted over 300 folks at the 2019 Inland NW State of Reform Health Policy Conference, including some of the most important leaders and organizations in the state. If you missed the conference, you may know that we capture some of the sights and sounds of the day in a highlight video we show to close the event. You can check that out here.

You can also see some of the stories and sights from social media for a sense of the conversations this year, like this one from CHPW or this one from Wagstaff. Another is from Greg Knapp at MultiCare or this from Jon Brumbach at Beacon Health Options.

3. “Blue Button” and 21st Century Cures Act

Two of the more interesting happenings in data that you probably haven’t heard about may quickly push the sector towards greater consumerism. The Blue Button 2.0 initiative out of HHS will provide Medicare (and aspirationally Medicaid) claims data to app developers and coders. The idea is to allow entrepreneurs to build business models and services using this data to offer consumers better tools to navigate the health care ecosystem.

The 21st Century Cures Act, a bill that got little coverage outside of DC, tech, or drug sectors, requires that patients be able to access all of their electronic health information at no cost. A proposed ONC rule sets that implementation deadline at January 1st. Meanwhile, the bill allows for fasttracking at the FDA of new medical devices. Last week, the first “autonomous artificially intelligent medical device” was approved.

4. Video: Diane Oakes, Arcora Foundation

Diane Oakes is the President and CEO of Arcora Foundation. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss the importance of oral health and the foundation’s work to help increase access to care.

“I think it’s important for policymakers to understand that oral disease is an indicator of health status and social status for people in our state — and the disparities are significant. People of color, children of color, and low-income populations are significantly more likely to experience tooth decay and gum disease. And this impacts their employability, it impacts their ability to learn in school, and to have healthy aging.”


5. House “Committee Days” in Olympia

House members met in Olympia this week for information sessions and some minor re-org work. Importantly, the content of these meetings can sometimes foreshadow topics that will be teed up in the legislative session. If that’s the case, look for work on PBM reform, on supporting transitions from acute to post-acute care, and possibly some additional work related to long term care within the 1115 waiver framework.

Notable also was the progress DCYF has made under Secretary Ross Hunter. Out of state placements for hard-to-place foster kids is down over 50%, from 83 kids to 33 kids. Licensed foster homes in the state are up about 10% from 2015 lows. Things appear to have turned around in a very complicated foster care system.