5 Things Washington: Reopening plan, Federal health agenda, Convening Panel

I think we’re about ready to head back to in-person events come the fall. I’m not sure yet, however, so I’d very much appreciate your feedback here. Notably, in our other markets, the demand for virtual events has begun to fall off just as quickly as the demand for in-person events fell off in March, 2020. I think Washington State lags a bit, for cultural and regulatory reasons (see below), but I expect that is shifting.

So, please feel free to forward this email around to your colleagues so they can take the survey as well (and, of course, subscribe here). We’ll share the results with our community in a few weeks so you can see what folks are saying to us.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Washington’s reopening lags US

Washington is lagging behind almost every other state when it comes to re-opening – even compared to other blue states. According to tracking from the New York Times, Washington is one of just a few states that hasn’t set criteria or a date for its full reopening. Despite having similar COVID death rates, both Oregon and California have set re-opening dates in June.

Washington ranks 12th in the country with an average 0.12 deaths per 100,000 and is in the middle of the pack when it comes to hospitalizations at 11 per 100,000. The state, however, ranks 10th worst in the nation for case rate at 17 per 100,000 (14-day change of -4%). After rolling back three counties to Phase 2 in April, last week Gov. Inslee announced a two-week pause on the phased reopening plan.


2. Survey: On returning to in-person events

We are getting the band back together. In other words, it’ll soon be time to pull together our Convening Panel to start our agenda-setting process for the 2021 Inland Northwest State of Reform Health Policy Conference. If you have suggestions on topics for this year’s Convening Panel, or if you’d like to participate in the process, I’d welcome hearing from you.

But ahead of that, I’d also like your feedback about whether to be in person or not come September 9th, when we plan to hold this event. As I said in my intro, filling out this four-question, one-minute survey would be very helpful to us as we think about re-convening State of Reform in person later this fall.

3. New DOC secretary to bring health expertise

Gov. Inslee recently announced the appointment of Cheryl Strange as the new secretary of the Department of Corrections. Strange is the current secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services where Inslee says she “has been instrumental in leading our behavioral health transformation initiative.”

Strange’s new appointment likely indicates an increased focus on health care in Washington’s correctional facilities – a necessary move, we think, after recent findings point to inadequate care at many facilities. That was reinforced when we asked the Gov’s office for a comment: “The governor is looking forward to Cheryl continuing the reform work DOC has begun and focusing on strengthening other areas such as health care.”


4. Video: Aligning payment and care

Last week we hosted our most recent 5 Slides” virtual conversation where three experts offered their perspectives on aligning payment and care to drive improved health outcomes. HCA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Judy Zerzan offered an update on the HCA’s value-based purchasing roadmap, which has been updated since it was first developed to include health equity and whole person care as part of their VBP goals.

Max Holfert, Program Director for Provider Partnership Innovations at Regence Blue Shield, says stakeholders need to come together to align on what value means, and they need to be crystal clear about it. “To drive real, lasting change in the way that we deliver health care and move toward deeper value…it’s going to take alignment, and it’s going to take commitment, and it’s going to take a village.” Coverage of the discussion and the full video of their remarks are available here.

5. Uncertainty in the 2021 federal health agenda

President Biden’s health policy agenda got off to a quick start but may slow in the coming months. In his latest piece, State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta outlines the high-profile health reforms that Democrats are discussing for possible inclusion in the infrastructure or family support bills that Biden has teed up.

Among the list of reforms up for discussion are efforts to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60, include dental and vision coverage under Medicare, give HHS the authority to negotiate pricing for Medicare-covered drugs directly with the pharmaceutical industry, and create a public option. Capretta highlights the outlook, challenges, and opposition for each of these proposals.