5 Things Washington: Revenue forecast, Lynnette Vehrs, Mental health

Among the primary reasons we’re able to offer this newsletter twice a month for free in Washington State is because of Emily Boerger. She’s a tremendous help to me in putting our newsletters together every other week. Another is Rick Rubin at OneHealthPort, who each year for the last number of years has provided us with a meaningful grant to be able to help provide extra content to the Washington State health care community.

So, when we mess up, the fault is of course mine. But, when we’re good, it’s because of folks like Emily and Rick that help make it all happen.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. 5 Slides: Impact of COVID-19 on mental health

In the last edition of 5 Things we featured a document from the Department of Health that forecasts a concerning outlook for the potential behavioral health impacts of COVID-19.  Next week, on July 2 from 12:00 – 1:00pm PDT, we’ll take up the topic with our “5 Slides: Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health” virtual discussion.

Joining us for the conversation is Megan Gary, MD, a practicing adult psychiatrist and Assistant Medical Director for Kaiser Permanente, Tom Sebastian, CEO of Compass Health, and Jeff Hite, PsyD, Provider Program Director for Beacon Health Options. These events are free with the support of our sponsors, but you’ll need to register to join us on July 2.


2. Revenue forecast projects $8.8 billion drop over three years

Washington State government revenue will come in about $8.8 billion less over the next three years than pre-pandemic estimates, according to the latest forecast released by the Washington State Economic Revenue and Forecast Council (ERFC). The legislature adopted a supplemental budget in the 2020 session of about $53.5 billion. The projected two-year revenues of $47.8 billion creates a shortfall of $5.7 billion over adopted expenditures, before tapping into reserves of more than $3 billion.

Most reports have focused on the revenue fall. But, it’s the revenue fall relative to the growth in expenditures that makes this painful. Moreover, the shortfall in the two-year budget will be borne in the remaining one fiscal year starting in July. The hope of legislators is that the federal government will send funds to the states. US Sen. Mitch McConnell, while formerly opposed to such funding, now says he’ll have a package ready in weeks to negotiate with the House.

3. Juneteenth virtual conversations

On June 19th we hosted our “Black Leadership in US Health Care and Health Policy” virtual conversation with Eric Hunter of CareOregon, Demetria Malloy, MD, of Anthem Medicaid in California, and 30-year Texas legislator Rep. Garnet Coleman. During this honest and important conversation, the panelists described their experience as Black leaders, the role the health care sector can play to address structural inequality and racism in American society, and how to lobby organizational leadership to act more boldly to stand up for racial equality.

We also encourage you to check out the Juneteenth conversation we hosted at our sister site, the Washington State Wire. This conversation on “Racism, protests, and the policy response” brought together April Sims with the Washington State Labor Council, Lee Lambert at City Year Seattle/King County, and 30th LD Rep. Jesse Johnson for one of our state’s only public conversations on race during Juneteenth.

4.  Video: Lynnette Vehrs, WSNA

Lynnette Vehrs, MN, RN, is the President of the Washington State Nurses Association. She is also a member of the Health Care Authority’s Universal Health Care Work Group. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss universal health coverage. These remarks were recorded before the COVID-19 outbreak during our January conference in Seattle.

“I happen to come from the premise that health care is a right. We are a very successful developed country. There’s no way the United States should be allowing people to die every day because they didn’t have the insurance.”


5. King County Councilmembers call for executive order

Five King County Councilmembers sent a letter to Gov. Inslee on Friday urging him to issue an executive order to guarantee Washington State will pay for any COVID-19 related medical bills for underinsured or uninsured Washingtonians who do not receive federal assistance from the CARES Act. The councilmembers say they are trying to ensure COVID patients do not face possible medical bankruptcy for receiving treatment related to the virus. They join a growing list of progressive voices calling for the state to support health care costs related to COVID.

“While you have committed to free testing, we feel this action does not go far enough to protect businesses and the working people of Washington financially over the long-term…As reopening of business activity begins, business owners and workers returning to work need the health and safety security of knowing all people in Washington can seek medical attention for COVID-19.” OFM recently reported a jump in the statewide uninsured rate from 6.7% prior to COVID to 12.3% at the end of May.