5 Things Washington: Health policy update, WA Keynotes, Executives on the move

One-third of all small businesses say they could not afford to pay January’s rent. We have had 44 weeks in a row where unemployment claims were higher than the worst week during the Great Recession. In the latest US Census Pulse survey results, 10.1% of 4.9m respondents in Washington State received mental health therapy in the last seven days. Another 14.9% said they needed therapy but were unable to get access to it. A full 56% said they experienced “feeling down, depressed or hopeless” between “several days” and “nearly every day” of the week.

It’s a good reminder for me to count our blessings over here at State of Reform. Thanks for your support and putting wind in our sails.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Update from the legislature

The Senate Business, Financial Services & Trade Committee recently held a public hearing on the OIC-requested bill to ban the use of credit scores by the insurance industry to set premiums. And last week, lawmakers heard testimony on a bill to establish health equity zones based on health disparity data, along with testimony on the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act.

In this Q&A, Sen. Manka Dhingra, chair of the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee to the Health & Long Term Care Committee, makes the case for three behavioral health bills she is sponsoring this year. SB 5073 (Concerning involuntary commitment) and SB 5074 (Establishing safe station pilot programs) have both passed out of the subcommittee, and SB 5071 (Creating transition teams to assist specified persons under civil commitment) is scheduled for executive session on Friday.


2. COVID’s impact on Native organizations

A new report from the Urban Indian Health Institute says adequate funding, housing supports, and vaccine hesitancy continue to be key challenges for Native direct-service organizations and the individuals they serve during the COVID pandemic. The organizations surveyed for the report identified significant vaccine hesitancy in their communities, with many community members voicing distrust in public officials and pharmaceutical companies to provide reliable information about the vaccine’s safety.

The extension of the statewide eviction moratorium was another critical issue identified in the report, with many of the organizations estimating it could cost between $25-74 million to maintain housing for those affected by the moratorium ending. To address these pressing issues, the report recommends flexible and sustained funding and including urban Native direct-service organizations in decision-making at the state and local level.

3. Check out the keynotes you may have missed

In case you missed it, I wanted to highlight two of our keynote conversations from the 2021 Washington State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference held earlier this month. We kicked off day two with “An International Perspective on COVID,” featuring three different views from leaders in Mogadishu, London, and Rome. This was a truly special session, unique to State of Reform, and one that will broaden your sense of health and community.

In the afternoon, Gary Kaplan, MD, and Ketul Patel, CEOs of the newly formed Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, and Beth Johnson, CEO of Coordinated Care, joined us for a conversation on the lessons learned during 2020. In this keynote, the three leaders offer their insights on changes to telehealth, workforce, and collaboration brought about by the pandemic.


4. The cost of delayed vaccines

The latest projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predict 3 million people will be vaccinated in Washington by May, though that number could reach 4 million individuals with a faster vaccine rollout. Between January 19 and May 1, the model projects there will be an additional 2,000 deaths (6,000 cumulative deaths) due to COVID in the state.

As it stands now, during that time IHME estimates the vaccines will save 800 lives. However, if the state can scale up the vaccine rollout, an additional 100 lives (900 total) in the state could be saved. These numbers make it clear that delays in vaccinations are more than inconveniences. They cost lives.

5. Executive leaders on the move

Two big personnel moves in Washington State health care. Peter Adler left his role as President of Molina Healthcare of Washington. During his six years at Molina, membership grew from 400,000 to nearly one million members, building one of the largest portfolios of fully insured lives in the Pacific Northwest. After he has some time away to recharge, I expect Adler will be back in the mix in some meaningful way.

Elaine Couture, Providence executive vice president and regional chief executive for Washington and Montana, will retire during the first quarter of this year. In a release, Providence CEO Rod Hochman says Couture “has worked tirelessly for the most poor and vulnerable in our communities, advocating for Medicaid expansion, extending our Mission of compassionate care for everyone in our communities through innovative projects, and taking tangible steps toward cost effective delivery of quality care.”