5 Things Washington: Health policy preview, Races to watch, Pfizer Leadership Series

A big thank you to everyone who attended and participated in our 2020 Inland Northwest State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference a few weeks ago! Thanks to your support, State of Reform continues to foster this non-partisan “safe table” around which different silos from the Washington health care community can gather. We’re very honored that you allow us to play this role, so thank you.

In this edition of 5 Things We’re Watching, we highlight some of the conversations that took place at the event, along with an update from the HCA, a new “Leadership Series” interview, and a rundown of races to watch in November.

Emily Boerger
Senior Reporter


1. Health policy preview for 2021

Over the course of two separate breakout sessions during the State of Reform Conference, seven legislators offered their observations on health and fiscal policy since the previous legislative session ended. They also provided a preview of what we can expect in 2021. There was bipartisan agreement among the legislators that work on the budget will be a top priority and that Medicaid cuts should be a last resort next session.

But, there was some variation in the other priorities at the top of their respective to do lists. The Democratic leadership panel highlighted affordable housing, telehealth & broadband, and the social determinants of health. Legislators on the Republican leadership panel said mental health, public health, and rural health care will be top of mind.


2. What would a virtual session look like?

During our “Capitol insiders discuss health policy” panel at the conference, all three panelists agreed that a key question that will impact the upcoming legislative session revolves around whether legislators meet virtually or in person. A virtual-only model could limit the number of bills that will be heard in committee, forcing Chairs to be even more selective with the bills they advance.

“We’re encouraging our clients, if you’re doing policy next year, you better get it ready because you’re going to want to be in that queue early,” said Lonnie Johns-Brown, Owner of Johns-Brown Government Relations. Tom McBride, Principal at McBride Public Affairs, points out that a virtual session will also add complexity to voting, bill testimony, lobbying, and collaboration. Take a look at our recap of the panel discussion for these insiders’ takes on the budget cuts, revenue options, and health policies that will be in play.

3. Leadership Series on COVID vaccine

This week State of Reform had the opportunity to speak with David Hering, Pfizer’s North American Regional President for Vaccines, as part of our virtual “Leadership Series.” During the one-on-one conversation, Hering spoke with host DJ Wilson about Pfizer’s work in developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the video interview, Hering says vaccine developers are on the cusp of a real leap in science, particularly as it relates to the mRNA model vaccines being developed by Pfizer and others. “The ability to basically tell your own cells to…provide antibodies for these diseases instead of having to put the actual virus, you know attenuated or other ways, into the bloodstream is a really fantastic advancement and one that should have broad applicability,” says Hering.

4. An update on VBP from the HCA

The Health Care Authority recently released a revised version of its Value-based Purchasing Roadmap that takes into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency says it will make short-term changes to its VBP program including adjusting the 2021 MCO VBP target adoption rate from 90% to 85%. Other COVID-related considerations include changes related to telehealth, primary care, and provider engagement.

The roadmap also includes data from HCA’s most recent provider and health plan survey which measures VBP adoption and related challenges or barriers. Due to the pandemic, about 40% of providers said they were experiencing a reduced willingness to take on additional risk and/or VBP contracts, and almost 60% suggested pausing the expansion of VBP and instead focusing on maintaining access to telehealth services.


5. Races to watch

Over at our sister site, the Washington State Wire, Reporter Michael Goldberg has spent the last several weeks diving into the dynamics and details of races to watch in November. He recently covered the 8th Congressional District race between incumbent Dr. Kim Schrier and Republican challenger Jesse Jensen, which features a battle to define the district’s political middle.

Goldberg has also covered the 10th CD race which features two Democrats jockeying to replace Rep. Denny Heck, the races in the 10th LD which is proving to be one of the state’s most closely divided swing districts, and the 3rd CD race featuring incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler against challenger Carolyn Long. The Wire also hosted a debate between the candidates in the Superintendent of Public Instruction race.