5 Things Washington: Telehealth rulemaking, Topical Agenda, Recovery Café

It’s a big week here at State of Reform as we just released our Topical Agenda for the 2021 Inland Northwest State of Reform Health Policy Conference (more on that below). Be sure to check out the list of topics that we’ve lined up on the agenda this year!

This edition of 5 Things We’re Watching also features our coverage of the OIC’s telehealth rulemaking meeting, details on the $500,000 headed to SODO’s Recovery Café, and a look at how Medicaid rates are impacting a North Central Washington health system.

As always, thanks for reading!


Emily Boerger
State of Reform 

1. OIC begins telehealth rulemaking

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner held a stakeholder meeting on Monday to discuss rulemaking for the implementation of ESHB 1196 – the bill passed this year requiring health plans to reimburse for audio-only telemedicine services. Emergency Orders adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic required audio-only telemedicine reimbursement, but the new law puts the requirement into state statute.

During the meeting, stakeholders expressed concern about language in the bill related to prior consent requirements and the definition of the “originating site” for telemedicine. The OIC will consider feedback from the stakeholder group and issue a draft of the rules around July 24. Another stakeholder meeting will be scheduled in mid-August.


2. ICYMI: Topical Agenda now available

In case you missed it, we recently released the Topical Agenda for the 2021 Inland Northwest State of Reform Health Policy Conference coming up on September 9th! It’s a set of topics pulled together from scores of hours of conversations with our Convening Panel, key stakeholders, and sponsors. We’ll be exploring politics and policy in health care, discussing health care cost drivers, and diving deep into lessons learned from the pandemic, value-based care implementation, and the future of the health care workforce.

You can view the Topical Agenda here for a sense of the conversations we have teed up, and if you have suggestions for speakers let us know. If you haven’t already registered, we’d be honored to have you join us!


3. $500,000 to Recovery Café in SODO

To help those struggling with addiction, the King County Council recently approved a supplemental budget that includes $500,000 in funding for the Recovery Café in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood. State of Reform reached out to King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn, who requested the funding, and Recovery Café Executive Director David Coffey for a discussion on how the funding will be used.

“The Recovery Café is a really important, classic example of a safety net program that is working and being effective in our community,” says Dunn. “When the government and private sector get together in this area, there’s a lot of great work that we can do that hasn’t been done.” Coffey says the funding will be used to innovate at the Recovery Café and to support partnerships that will allow them to provide medication and treatment services.


4. WA counties with highest primary care workforce shortages

A 2021 study lists four Washington counties among the top 15 counties in the nation with the largest primary care provider shortages. The counties include: Mason (ranked #14), South Thurston (#9), Kitsap (#7), and Spokane (#6).

HRSA’s Health Professional Shortage Area Find tool indicates South Thurston County needs 17.38 primary care providers to meet the population to practitioner target ratio. Kitsap County needs close to 19 primary care practitioners, 34 dental health providers, and 10 mental health providers to meet target ratios. Texas and Hawaii are the only other states with multiple counties on the study’s list with 2 and 3 counties, respectively.

5. Impact of Medicaid rates in rural WA

Confluence Health CEO Dr. Peter Rutherford says low Medicaid rates are pushing his health system to its breaking point. Rutherford says about 22% of services provided at Confluence Health – which is one of the largest health systems in North Central Washington – are provided to Medicaid beneficiaries. These services represent 10% of the health system’s revenue.

For Medicaid patients, he says the system is reimbursed 47% below the costs of the provided services. “We estimate that the shortfall between the cost to provide the services and the reimbursement for Medicaid at this point is somewhere in the $45–$50 million a year range.”