2019 INW State of Reform Keynote: The Dynamics of the Washington State Legislature

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, and House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Timm Ormsby offered their thoughts on state health policy during a keynote conversation at the 2019 Inland Northwest State of Reform Health Policy Conference.

This group of legislative leaders joined DJ Wilson on stage to discuss the dynamics of the Washington State Legislature, the state of politics in Washington, health care visions for Republicans and Democrats, and where the policy conversation may be heading next.


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Among several topics, Sen. Billig discussed the instability of the health care system and his caucus’s intent to look more upstream when it comes to health, placing a greater emphasis on the social determinants.

“One of my priorities is for us to look further upstream. You know, I think we forget — we talk about health care. Everything is about health care and we forget that the goal is not health care; the goal is health.”

Rep. Wilcox described House Republicans’ vision for health care which includes a focus on access and affordability, particularly in rural areas of the state.

“We represent the more rural areas, the smaller towns and the smaller cities. And I think it’s true that health care in certain ways has gotten better, especially in larger, urban areas. But we often represent the places where it’s gotten worse, where availability has disappeared in many cases. Especially when it comes to any kind of specialty care or even access to hospitals.”

Rep. Ormsby commented on the importance of pushing for innovation and reform in health care, rather than waiting for the industry to change on its own.

“Change is difficult. So, if you’ve figured out how to pay your bills, and your business model works — I wouldn’t want to change it. Our job is not that job. Our job is to make that system apply to the benefit of the people we’re there to represent. So, [change] does take some provoking.”

The 45-minute conversation also touched on the 2020 governors race, cultural differences in the legislative chambers, new House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, and diversity among lawmakers.