Interview with Brian Bonlender, Transition Director – Part 2

This is part 2 of a 2 part interview with Brian Bonlender, Transition Director for Governor Elect Jay Inslee.  You can read the first installment here.

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Q:  During the campaign, there was a lot of talk about Jay’s role in Congress being a negative.  How do you think the time in DC will prove to be an asset in Olympia?

The upside of having worked in Washington DC is that you’re at a place where you can see what’s going on around the state, the region and the country.

When we were crafting the Affordable Care Act, Jay and some of his colleagues, and some of us staffers, formed the Quality Care Coalition.  This

We found that we were in the distinct minority of states that were doing that.  In some cases, there were particular pockets in states that were doing great work, like the Everett Clinic or what’s happening in Wenatchee.  We took a look at what’s being done in other states to reduce costs, and improve the quality of care over quantity.

The Affordable Care Act gave us the opportunity to educate a lot of colleagues from around the country.  They hadn’t seen the light on this subject.  They saw health care as a zero sum game where they tried to get the highest reimbursement for their providers, as compared to coordinated care with providers, bundled payments and other things that have been used to reduce costs and improve outcomes.

So the DC experience opened the door to see a lot of different models of success across the country – but allowed us to see a number of things that aren’t working and learn from them.

Q:  So what does the future hold for you?  What’s next for you?

I’ve worked for Jay Inslee for a long time, and it’s been an honor that entire time to work for him and the people he was elected to represent.  Jay is just a great guy to work for and to work with because he’s always interested in pushing the envelope and doing what he can to truly to help the state that he loves.  So it’s always a rewarding experience to work with him.

Right now I have two small kids – a two year old and a 6 month old – and I find myself making decisions based not just on job and career considerations but family considerations as well, and trying to find that right balance.

I’m not certain what I’m going to do.

I’ve been talking to the Governor Elect about different options and where he’d like me and where I might best help him.  But I’m open minded about my future.  Right now I’m focused on standing up a government on January 16th that will help him best implement his agenda for Washington State.

Q:  What’s it like working in the transition?  That must be fun.

It’s a very unique organization, mission, and time.  It’s a short lived organization.  A lot of excitement, and a heck of a lot of work.  Our goal is to stand up an administration so that Jay can hit the ground running with the right personnel.  Putting together a team that represents the geographic ethnic and cultural diversities of the state, and reaching out to all corners of the state on that process, it’s a full time job, to say the least.

Q:  Any particular thing stand out to you as this process unfolds?

One truly heartening and interesting thing has then the fact that – right now anyway – people want to help.  Democrats, Republicans and independents alike – they want to be helpful in putting together a government that works for the people of Washington State.

It’s just been a lot of fun to see all of these folks work together, put aside partisanship, and perhaps personal or industry bias and take a look at the larger picture to put together the right kind of team.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to add for health care folks?

Right now it’s an exciting and daunting time.  It’s one thing to campaign.  It’s another thing to govern, right?

As you know, you helped advise Jay and guide a team of diverse stakeholder to help us craft a pretty detailed set of health care policies.  It’s exciting to be at a point where we get to move forward with implementing them, but it’s also daunting because it’s not a small undertaking.  It requires a disparate group of stakeholders to get on the same page and move this ball forward.