5 Things Washington: Sen. David Frockt, Nichole Maher, Bills to watch

Last week’s conference in Seattle was a big one, and candidly, such an honor to host. Thank you for letting us play this unique role in Washington State health care.  If you weren’t one of the almost 900 folks in the room last week, take a look at what you missed from the event.

With that, here are a few things we have our eye on in Washington State health care for January, 2020.



With help from Emily Boerger, Michael Goldberg, Madeline Shannon


1. Get to know Nichole Maher at GHF

If we are lucky enough to host State of Reform in 2030, I think we’ll look back on the decade that lies ahead of us and may say “The Group Health Foundation was perhaps the most important, most disruptive force in Washington State health care.” One reason for that is Nichole Maher, the CEO of the new foundation. I spoke with her at our event in a brief interview I’d commend to you.

“We are an organization that… will have… a robust grant making program that is really unapologetic about systems change and building power and saying quite clearly that we need leadership and solutions and structures that match what Washington is today and is getting ready for what Washington is tomorrow.  So, we live in a state where one out of three people is a person of color and/or an immigrant. We live in a state where 47% of all children that go to public school are people of color.  And our zero to five population is actually the most diverse portion of our population.  And I think we need to imagine a state who is ready for all those people to lead and to design a future we want for ourselves.”


2.  Sen. Frockt talks public option and what comes next

Sen. David Frockt has grown to be one of the most impactful legislators in Olympia. His humble but confident approach to policy making has drawn praise from a range of folks, including Hilary Franz who recently called him the “the ideal legislator.”

I interviewed Frockt on stage at State of Reform last week where he dropped something of a bomb on the heath care community. He highlighted the failed re-insurance legislation from previous sessions as having set the stage for bolder action with the public option bill that he sponsored in 2019. “If (the public option) doesn’t work, I think it does set the stage for somewhat bolder action.” In other words, if the “relatively modest” public option isn’t implemented by the market, the market should expect even more significant legislative activism.

3.  Health bills to watch

With the legislative session officially underway, here are some of the health-related bills we’re watching. Reporter Madeline Shannon takes a look at four bills benefiting women and girls. Two deal with expansion of Medicaid and medical assistance coverage to postpartum mothers for up to one year after the end of a pregnancy. It’s currently limited to about 60 days post-partum. Another bill would require student health insurance plans to cover abortion services for full-time college students, while another would mandate public schools supply menstrual products in girls and gender-neutral bathrooms.

Meanwhile, Senior Reporter Emily Boerger recently reported on Sen. Keiser’s five bills targeting the pharmaceutical industry and their pricing. They range from a bill that will cap out of pocket costs for insulin to bills that would facilitate travel to or importation from Canada for purchase of prescription drugs.


4. Health Committee starts out year with Medicaid Presentations

The Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee featured a presentation from nationally- and regionally-recognized Medicaid experts on Monday. Manatt Health Strategies Senior Managing Director Patricia Boozang and the state’s Health Authority Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad both spoke to how beneficiaries of Medicaid managed care plans fare compared to fee-for-service programs and the benefts of managed care plans.

According to Boozang, one in five Americans, or 75 million people, are covered by Medicaid. The number of enrollees makes Medicaid the biggest provider in the country, fueled in part by those with severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders being looped in by the Affordable Care Act.

5.  Capretta: GOP on health care in 2020

Jim Capretta’s latest column for State of Reform evaluates the direction of a potential GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Capretta identifies four higher-profile initiatives that Republicans are most likely to embrace as they try to counter Democratic plans.

These initiatives include changes to health reimbursement arrangements, “liberalizing the rules” for selling short-term, limited duration insurances, and new rules around price transparency and drug pricing. From Capretta: “What is likely to emerge is a strategy focused on political messaging rather an actual plan, with an emphasis on the regulations and administrative actions taken by the president during his term. There also will be vigorous attacks on whatever reforms are endorsed by the eventual Democratic nominee.”