5 Things Washington: ACA lawsuit, Election night coverage, My COVID experience

Our registration for our 2020 Washington State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference is now up and available! Our Early Bird rates are about half of what they were in the in-person setting, but we’re limited to only 1,000 registrants this year.

Now, we may only have me and a few other folks with us! I don’t take anything for granted. But, our other virtual events have been running at about 33% greater registration than in year’s past. So, given that we had 950 registered to be with us in January, please don’t take for granted that we will have an open ‘seat’ for you. We are likely to sell out this event well in advance.

So, get signed up to be with us for this two-day event! We’d be honored to have you with us.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. What’s at stake in ACA lawsuit?

Next month, the US Supreme Court will take up the California v. Texas lawsuit which threatens to dismantle the ACA. Ahead of this, Gov. Jay Inslee, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, and Washington Health Benefit Exchange CEO Pam MacEwan sent a letter to Washington’s US Senators highlighting the potential “widespread and devastating” impacts on Washington if the Supreme Court strikes down the law.

The letter states that 625,000 Washingtonians who became newly eligible for Medicaid under the ACA would lose coverage, resulting in a $3.6 billion annual loss in federal funding. Without the ACA, 140,000 residents who rely on federal subsidies to purchase qualified health plans on the Exchange would lose the financial help. The state leaders anticipate a total loss of over $4.2 billion annually in federal funds for residents who receive low-cost or free coverage under the ACA.

2. Election night show on TVW

In collaboration with TVW, next week I will host a three-hour “Election Night in Washington” show broadcast via TVW .

I expect most outlets will be covering the national election. In contract, we’ll focus most of our time covering the unique stories, people and races in Washington State, providing what we think will be the most comprehensive coverage of Washington State elections on Election Night. We will also be going ‘on the ground’ in states with key US Senate races, like Alaska, Arizona, Texas and Colorado to let you know how things are playing out for control of the Senate.

So, we’d love to have you join us at TVW during Election Night! Watch the national returns for national news. But, when you want to get up to date on what’s happening in Washington State, tune in to TVW or go to www.washingtonstatewire.com where we will have the latest.


3. BH task force discusses recommendations

The Behavioral Health Recovery System Transformation Task Force met on Friday to discuss the series of behavioral health recommendations they will submit to the governor’s office ahead of the legislative session. The list of recommendations up for consideration fall into three buckets: systems infrastructure, workforce, and physical infrastructure.

The committee discussed a wide range of recommendations including the creation of a real-time BH bed tracking system, the expansion of the Workforce Education Investment Act to provide free graduate tuition for students entering the BH field, and the identification of dedicated revenue sources to build supportive housing units. Support for the state’s behavioral health system will be even more critical as the impacts of COVID hit Washingtonians and as we settle into the “dark winter” expected in the months ahead.


4. I got COVID. Here’s what I learned.

Over the last few weeks, I was diagnosed with COVID. I quarantined in my home office with only light but still-worrying symptoms. But even more disappointing was my experience with the primary care and public health systems. I’ve written before about how good the care was for my uncle when he was 38 days on a ventilator.

But, it’s clear to me now that if you get COVID, you’re mostly on your own. Testing is still a mess in many cases, and varied across county lines. Even the protocols don’t seem to make sense. For example, if you come in contact with someone with COVID, but you test negative, the protocol is to quarantine for 14 days. If you test positive, you only need to quarantine for 10 days. I know the reasons why this might be the case still, but the gold standard is two negative tests about five days apart. With more testing, we can dispense with this 14-day requirement and better support people in managing through this crisis. Alas, even in ‘taking-this-very-seriously’ Washington, we still don’t have a coherent testing strategy.

5. Merkley says Dems want to ‘unrig’ the system

Last week I got the opportunity for an extended interview with US Sen. Jeff Merkley out of Oregon. The conversation – which touched on leadership, ending the filibuster, and what it’s like to serve in Congress in 2020 – was candid, unique, and informative.

Merkley says its time to unrig how the Senate works: “The Republican priorities take 51 votes, or 50 plus the vice president,” he said. “The Democrat priorities take 60 votes. The Senate is fundamentally rigged against policies to invest in the American people. In health care, housing, education, infrastructure, or to create quality of opportunity in civil rights, or LBGTQ rights or dreamers, or to take on the climate. So that inequality in how the Senate operates, that rigged Senate, has to be unrigged.”