5 Things Washington: WA Cares Fund, International medical graduates, 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference


Emily Boerger


With the Thanksgiving holiday this week, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you on behalf of the entire State of Reform team for your continued support. Whether it’s through attending our conferences, reading our coverage of health care and health policy in Washington, or sponsoring our events, we appreciate you!

Thanks again and happy Thanksgiving!

Emily Boerger
Managing Editor
State of Reform


1. Q&A: Dr. Ali Mokdad on COVID and boosters

Dr. Ali Mokdad is a professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and chief strategy officer of population health at the University of Washington. In this Q&A, Mokdad discusses the likely course of the pandemic in the coming months, vaccine boosters, and ways to stay safe during the holidays.

Mokdad says immunity from vaccines declines rapidly, and that despite unclear language from the CDC, everybody needs to get a booster. He also says mask-wearing remains important. “We are projecting 881,000 deaths cumulative by March 1 in our projections from Nov. 15. That’s about 121,000 additional deaths in the United States. If 95% of Americans wear a mask when we are outside our home, we are projecting out of this 121,000, there will be 65,000 fewer deaths.”

2. Behavioral health policy recommendations

During Committee Assembly Days last week, the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee heard policy recommendations from the state’s Behavioral Health Workforce Advisory Committee. The recommendations included a 7% increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate for community behavioral health agencies, support for behavioral health apprenticeships, and financial support and incentives for the workforce.

The subcommittee also heard recommendations from the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group, which advocated for funding to explore implementation of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, grants to put more BH clinicians in schools, and expansion of the Parent Support Warm Line.


3. 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference

On December 15, we’re very much looking forward to hosting the 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference over at our sister site, the Washington State Wire. Like State of Reform, the 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference is a non-partisan, policy agnostic platform for civil, civic discourse on policy, politics, and political economy.

This year’s agenda includes conversations on redistricting, transportation, housing, and tax policy, among others. We’ve so far lined up over 20 state legislators who are confirmed to speak, offering an inside look at some of the policy priorities likely to take center stage once the 2022 session begins. You can take a look at the Topical Agenda and the Detailed Agenda to see the full list of topics and speakers who will be there on the 15th. We’d love to have you join us!


4. The pathway for international medical graduates

The pathway to practice for the hundreds of Washington State professionals who received their medical training abroad can be complicated, expensive, and time consuming. In this piece, State of Reform Reporter Aaron Kunkler explores the challenges, new efforts, and road ahead for licensing international medical graduates (IMGs).

He highlights the implementation process of HB 1129, a bill passed in the 2021 session that allows the Washington Medical Commission to issue limited licenses to IMGs so they can begin practicing and gain clinical experience to prepare them for residency programs. Dr. Mohamed Khalif, founder of the Washington Academy for International Medical Graduates, says the program is a good starting point but he’s exploring ways to extend the license, improve the residency match rate for IMGs, and ensure Medicaid reimbursement for services provided through the program.

5. Long Term Care Trust Act updates will be “top priority”

During a press conference last week, Rep. Nicole Macri said making adjustments to the Long Term Care Trust Act, or the WA Cares Fund, is “a top priority” for Democrats in both the House and Senate. Some of the adjustments might include exemptions for people who live out of state but work in Washington, as well as carveouts for veterans, temporary workers, and military spouses.

Macri said lawmakers also need to look at the portability of the benefit in case a worker pays into the system but moves out of state. They will also consider near-retirees and creating a vesting approach for them to access the benefit. Republicans have similarly called for changes to the fund.