What They’re Watching: Sue Birch, Health Care Authority

Sue Birch is the Director of the Washington State Health Care Authority, where she leads the largest health care purchaser in the state. She has served in the position since being appointed by Gov. Inslee on January 1, 2018. Birch joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss the total cost of care.


Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.


“One of the areas that I’m most excited about for the state of Washington is our ability to get much more intelligent data around total cost of care. So, as we get sharper with understanding what the costs are related to hospital costs, pharmacy costs, provider costs, it’s going to help us really understand what we’re paying for and drive towards greater affordability.

So, Washington has had a very strong alliance here called the Washington Health Alliance and our partners have had a very successful all payer claims database. It’s a proprietary tool that they use. And the state built a second all payer claims database and we are working together with our partners — the commercial purchasers like the Boeings, the Microsofts, all the large entities, and the providers, and also many of the plans. And again, we’re all leaning in to really undertake an analysis of the costs that are borne in the system so that we can try to rein those in. It’s my belief that we can, over time, get some of the bloat and dysfunction and the waste out of the system and save about 8 to 10 percent off what our costs of care are right now. We’ve been trending kind of at a hockey stick trend with the costs of health care and it’s time that we keep flattening out that trend and/or reversing that trend because families simply cannot afford health insurance if it’s left untended or if it keeps moving in the direction it’s been going in.”