5 Things Washington: Coronavirus, Presidential Primary, Cascade Care RFA

It’s one thing to know that 2/3rds of the economic damage of a pandemic like COVID-19 is a consequence of fear, with only 1/3rd from the virus itself. It’s another thing to not get scared and buy into the hype.

For example, the generally slow-to-radicalize American Hospital Association said Friday in a webinar that suggested 480,000 deaths from the virus in 2020-2021. One might reasonably expect that, if accurate, a number of some significance will be in Washington State.

King County reported this morning 74 new cases today. Yesterday, it was 33. Two days ago, 13.

I don’t always recommend an afternoon cocktail to help with work stress, but since you’re probably working from home…




With help from Emily Boerger


1. Coronavirus has entered a new phase

“Seattle is effectively in the position that Wuhan was on Jan. 1… Three weeks later, on Jan. 21, China imposed the most draconian quarantine measures ever deployed in modern times.” That was last Thursday. On Sunday, Gov. Inslee said his team was considering “mandatory measures” to contain the virus. On Monday, the Seattle City Council got a presentation that included a “cordon sanitaire” as a possible option – meaning an Italy-like quarantine of the region. National figures have started calling for Seattle-specific mitigation steps, in what appears to be a growing targeting of the area by East Coast pundits. Today, the National Guard was mobilized in New York to support containment in a community there.

Senior health care executives tell me they are planning for a massive wave of folks presenting with respiratory issues in the next 2-4 weeks in the Puget Sound region. You should have a plan for what that will mean for you. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. This is the best, most comprehensive compilation on the subject I’ve seen on the web. I suggest you read it.

2. Health legislation roundup

COVID-19 is dominating the news in Washington State, but with the 2020 legislative session scheduled to end on Thursday, we wanted to take a look back at some of the meaningful health legislation passed this year. Bills aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs, including bills to cap out-of-pocket costs to patients for insulin at $100 per month, are headed to the governor’s desk.

The legislature passed Sen. Randi Becker’s telemedicine payment parity bill yesterday afternoon, but Sen. David Frockt’s prior authorization bill is still in limbo as the Senate refused to concur with House amendments yesterday. Lawmakers also passed several bills aimed at improving health care for women.


3.  Wire: To vote Bernie or not to vote Bernie

From our weekly political email at the Washington State Wire. You can sign up to get it here.

In what appeared to be Bernie Sanders’s election to run away with a week ago, Joe Biden has surged into first place in polling ahead of today’s presidential primary. Biden wasn’t over 15% a week ago. In the last few weeks, the central question has really been whether to support Bernie Sanders or not. It was far less about Biden, or anyone else, than it was about Bernie.

It would appear the “Consensus Democrats” that are so important in Washington State finally made up their minds and broke for an institutionalist rather than a revolutionary. In our shop, we’re of multiple minds, of course. Michael Goldberg makes the argument that this time in America calls for Bernie Sanders. I’m bordering on starting the “Never Bernie” club.

4.  Video: Jeffrey Coopersmith

Jeffrey Coopersmith is the founder of Coopersmith Law + Strategy, a legal and consulting firm based in Seattle. Coopersmith joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss streamlining the patient experience.

“It’s now thought that in five years 50% of outpatient visits will be virtual. What that will mean is that you’ll be able to get on an app or get on a screen in your home or your place of work and you’ll be able to talk with the physician about whatever concerns you have…It takes the friction out, it gets you and the doctor spending time on what you should be spending time on: what’s the diagnosis? What’s the treatment? Instead of, can I find parking?”


5.  Cascade Care RFA released

The Health Care Authority recently released its request for applications for the procurement of public option plans under Cascade Care. Letters of intent are due this Friday in a very narrow turnaround time.  Phase 1 responses are due April 17, and Phase 2 responses are due May 22. HCA is scheduled to announce apparent successful applicants in July of this year; contracts will be executed at the end of September with a coverage start date on January 1, 2021.

The contract is for plan year 2021 and 2022. The HCA can extend this contract for two additional two-year periods. That means this may well be a protected market for six years. And, if it’s the low cost market to buy insurance, this could lockdown the market – and market share – for those carriers (and providers) willing to take the leap. Additional information is available on the HCA’s bids and contracts page.