WEA account win | Don Antonucci resigns | Podcast launched

It’s hard to not watch what’s happening in DC right now, but we have a few nuggets from this Washington that are worth keeping an eye on. Don Antonucci, Washington state teachers, and Dave Reichert are among a few for this edition of 5 Things We’re Watching in health care in March.


1.  WEA moves 100k members to United, Aetna

The Washington Education Association has decided to move its member benefits to a model that allows members the choice of products from two plans: United and Aetna. Premera chose not to participate after serving WEA for more than 50 years in Washington State. The move is significant as the 109,000 WEA members makes this is one of the largest such accounts in the northwest.

This may move United solidly into the position of second largest insurer in Washington State by consolidated lines of business. Regence floats around the 1.1m mark, as United currently does at 1.15m. Premera includes national accounts like Amazon in its Washington total of 1.9m. Proposals for the PEBB contract are due in April. With 360,000 members, it’s the next big win available for plans in the employer market.

2.  Don Antonucci leaving Regence

The market president at Regence Blue Shield of Washington has let the company know he is leaving to move back to Oregon.  Don Antonucci will join 10xHealth, a start-up I’m told is “well funded” and which is focused on reducing medical costs for the members of its plan partners.

Tim Lieb is the Vice President of Sales and will serve as Interim Plan President. The timing of the transition is a little tricky.  Next month, proposals are due for the state employees’ account (non-teacher), a contract Regence currently holds.  Given the size – the largest in-state employer account – this will be a fiercely waged competition among plans, and one that Regence is very focused on retaining.

3.  The AHCA, CBO and Washington State

The Congressional Republicans’ reform bill, the American Health Care Act, is step one in the House reform strategy, according to Paul Ryan. House Republicans have announced a set of additional bills that will come out next week.

Lots of ink has been spilled on the CBO score and the impact of the reform bill, but you should read it for yourself.  Gov. Inslee has said 700,000 will lose coverage in Washington State. In Republican Dave Reichert’s district, a district carried by Hillary Clinton, the uninsured rate fell 7.8%. That came from 11,900 enrollees on the exchange via subsidies, and 40,900 who are covered by Medicaid expansion.

4.  Adding the Washington State Wire

As we’ve expanded State of Reform, the markets have changed, but our focus has been singular: the intersection of health care and health policy. Now, we’re expanding again – but with a market that is singular, and content that crosses policy, economy and culture.

We have acquired the Washington State Wire to add to our digital portfolio. Erin Fenner is our lead reporter for the Wire, having previously written for the Idaho Statesman and Willamette Weekly.

So, if you’re interested in the same kind of news and commentary on state policy you get from State of Reform – but which stretches beyond health care – check out the Wire.  We have a weekly email that comes out first thing Monday morning with your news for the week. So, check us out and sign up for the email when you do.

5.  Launching the State of Reform Podcast

State of Reform tries to bridge the gap between the world of health care and that of health policy.  We do this in part by providing a platform for the voices of senior executives and health policy leaders.  The content generated by them is then shared across multiple information channels, providing insights wherever consumers access their information: web, email, social, video, small-run book publishing, and conferences.

Today, we add a podcast to that list of channels where you can learn directly from senior members of the health care and health policy world.  This is content in their voice, reflective of their thinking.  Expect to hear stories ranging from Honolulu to Baton Rouge – and of course Washington State.

In our first podcast episode, we go to Texas, perhaps the staunchest state-opponent to the Affordable Care Act.  We wondered: Is a Trump presidency good news for Texas health care?  What we heard a range of answers – but some acute anxiety.