5 Things Washington: What you missed, 2022 health policy, Deferred care


Emily Boerger


Last week we were honored to host the 2022 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference, which brought together a diverse group of some of the most senior health care executives and health policy leaders in the state.

In this edition of “5 Things We’re Watching” we feature several of the keynotes, conversations, and breakout sessions that took place at the event. And, in case you missed it, we put together a highlight video that features some of the sights and sounds from the day.

As always, thanks for reading!

Emily Boerger
State of Reform


1. Health priorities for the 2022 session

Over the course of two separate breakout sessions at the 2022 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference last week, six legislators offered their observations on the health care and fiscal policy they will prioritize in the 2022 legislative session, which began on Monday. The Republican leadership panel highlighted behavioral health and changes to (or a full repeal of) the WA Cares Fund as top priorities.

On the Democrats panel, Sen. Karen Keiser said she will focus on prescription drug costs. Last month, Keiser introduced SB 5532, which would establish a prescription drug affordability board. Other panelists said bills to adjust assisted living Medicaid rates, support the health care workforce, and prepare for the “silver tsunami” will be top of mind.


2. Check out the keynotes you might have missed!

In case you missed it, I wanted to highlight three of our keynote conversations from the State of Reform conference last week. Our Lunch Keynote featured a “four-corner” conversation with legislative leaders from both parties and both chambers about policy issues ranging from public safety to the budget surplus.

In the afternoon, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs discussed COVID response operations and his outlook on leading the state’s elections department. Then our executive panel brought together CHPW CEO Leanne Berge, Ben Danielson, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics at UW Medicine, and the Vancouver Clinic CEO Mark Mantei for a conversation on health equity, health outcomes, and population health.


3. The impact of deferred care

Dr. Francis Mercado is the associate chief medical officer of primary care for Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. In this Q&A, Mercado discusses deferred care during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on both patients and health care systems.

Mercado says deferred and delayed care has had a significant impact on the health system and has impacted the way in-person visits are conducted. “Right now, when we see somebody in person, we recognize that this might be the only chance we get to get all of our screenings in,” he says. “It’s just more vigilance to make sure that we’re going through our checklists to make sure all the necessary requirements are done … Right now, we want to make sure that we cover as much as we can for the patient.”

4. Video: The new social determinant imperative

During our “The new social determinant imperative” breakout session, panelists stressed the importance of data collection to effectively address the social determinants of health. This includes data to measure if individuals are using available services and data to see how certain programs impact access to care and health disparities.

They also discussed innovative programs from around the country where there are more direct investments and connections between traditional health care and community-based services. During the conversation, Coordinated Care’s Andrea Davis stressed that there is no one answer to solving these problems. “I don’t think it’s necessarily like ‘pick one social determinant and fix it,’” she said. “I think it’s really looking at what the problems are in your community around you.” We’ve made the full video of their panel available here.

5. WSMA says emergency departments are overrun, hospitals are full

The 7-day rate of new COVID hospital admissions has exceeded the previous peak seen in September, according to the latest data from the DOH. The department also reports that hospitals are currently 93% occupied (17% are COVID cases) and ICU beds are 89% full (21% due to COVID).

Last week, the Washington State Medical Association sent a letter to Gov. Inslee calling for additional resources to assist emergency departments and hospitals. The letter specifically asks that the state utilize the national guard to assist with staffing shortages, and to support efforts to more efficiently discharge patients who no longer need acute care. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates more than 50% of Americans will become infected with Omicron in the next six weeks.